Steps to Resolving Joint Pain
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/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Steps to Resolving Joint Pain

Painful joints can be debilitating. More than that though, the pain can limit your mobility, derail healthy movement, and make it difficult to enjoy life. If you’re experiencing joint pain, you might wonder about the possible treatment options. Follow the guide below for expert tips and an idea of what to expect when working with SVMC Orthopedics to resolve your joint pain.

Talk to your primary care provider. Many insurances require patients to get a referral from a primary care provider before visiting an orthopedics practice, so it’s wise to see a primary care provider to discuss the pain. They can help determine the cause, whether it is likely to resolve over time, and if it is related to a cause orthopedics can help with. Some sources of joint pain are of a more generalized nature, affecting the whole body, and might require a specialty different from orthopedics. Primary care may suggest exercises, physical therapy, the RICE method, or topical or oral pain relievers. Depending on the suspected cause, primary care providers may recommend having an X-ray. If the pain is persistent and determined to be a result of arthritis, they will likely make a referral to an orthopedics practice. 

Your first appointment.  Typically, the first person patients see at SVMC Orthopedics is one of many friendly and capable providers. They will order an X-ray if their patient has not yet had one. The X-ray can be done conveniently in the office. They can also discuss the results of X-ray and the many options for resolving the pain.

Holistic treatment approach. Joints and muscles are a fine-tuned machine, but sometimes they can get out of shape. Often early changes in joints, muscles, and tendons can benefit from optimizing our health. This includes strengthening specific muscles as well as optimizing our weight. Our orthopedic team will guide you in regard to areas that require strengthening and will help with physical therapy referrals and/or home exercise programs. This is often the first step to restore an active lifestyle and improve pain.

Some people opt to try an injection. Injections for joint pain have advanced in the last several years. Different options exist; unfortunately, not all are covered by insurance. Our skilled providers can guide you as to the value of these individual injections. Some injections require ultrasound guidance to accurately inject deep laying joints. Injections typically do not cure the underlying problem but can give relief of 3 – 6 months or longer.

Those who have debilitating pain and have already tried physical therapy, strengthening, weight loss, injections, and other treatment methods often go on to consider surgery. They meet with a surgeon to discuss. The decision to have surgery should not be made lightly. There are some risks that surgeons would like patients to understand in advance. Those who decide that surgery is right for them sign up for the Joint Replacement Class.

The Joint Replacement Class covers everything patients need to know before surgery. Over the course of the hour-long class, the nurse-teacher and others share all of the preparation steps, including getting primary care and dental clearances, strengthening exercises to do in advance, and skin prep.

The class also covers what you can expect after surgery, including swelling, bruising, and temporary changes to your sleep and appetite patterns. Patients are sometimes surprised to hear that they should not drive for 6 weeks after their procedure, which may mean having to make alternative transportation arrangements.

Those who complete the class receive a call from the surgical scheduling team. Scheduling can take as long as 3 months, so it’s wise to factor this time into your work or vacation plans.

On the day of surgery, patients check in at Surgical Registration. They go to Pre-Op and are connected to the monitors. They meet their surgeon and anesthesiologist and have an opportunity to ask questions before going into the operating room. 

With advanced preparation, good health, and a strong support network, discharge can happen the same day. Many people enjoy the comfort of recovering in their own home. Others stay in the hospital and receive physical and occupational therapy. The length of hospital stay varies from patient to patient. The healthcare team ensures patients feel confident returning home before discharging them.

Once patients heal and complete physical therapy, they are ready to resume so many of the activities that had been too painful for them in the past.  It is so much fun for them to live pain-free once again.

Dr. Schneiderbauer is the medical director of Orthopedics at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.

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