Arthritis After an Injury: What You Need to Know

Arthritis After an Injury: What You Need to Know

Arthritis is a collection of conditions that affect the joints in your body, typically causing inflammation and tissue breakdown. The most common form is called osteoarthritis. 

It’s usually a slow-developing condition arising from long-term wear-and-tear on your joints. Osteoarthritis is common in the knees, hips, and shoulders, although it can affect virtually any joint.

Post-traumatic arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that usually emerges shortly after an injury that involves a joint. While it’s often a temporary condition that repairs itself in a matter of months, post-traumatic arthritis can sometimes persist as a chronic condition.

Southern Westchester Orthopedics & Sports Medicine specializes in arthritis treatment. Regardless of the type or cause, our doctors can help diagnose and treat your arthritic condition. When arthritis arises after an injury, this is what you need to know. 

The difference between post-traumatic arthritis and osteoarthritis

In both post-traumatic and osteoarthritis, damage to cartilage causes the symptoms you experience. The difference is in how the cartilage gets damaged. Osteoarthritis takes years to develop, and there’s often no observable reason why. 

Post-traumatic arthritis occurs after an injury that affects a joint, and comprises about 10%-12% of osteoarthritis cases annually, affecting about 5 million Americans. Typically, the injury bruises cartilage tissue but in severe cases can tear cartilage pieces away from the bone. 

You may not suffer from arthritis symptoms immediately after the injury, but these emerge in a few months, rather than over decades as with osteoarthritis. 

Symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis

You experience the same range of symptoms from post-traumatic arthritis as you would from osteoarthritis, although the combination and intensity varies in each situation. Common signs of cartilage damage include: 

Swelling may be due to soft tissue inflammation or synovial effusion, which is an excess of fluid that normally fills joint capsules.

Treating post-traumatic arthritis

In mild cases, physical therapy and low-impact activities like biking or swimming help your joints recover through gentle movement with a minimum of additional stress. A brace may help isolate and support the joint as it heals. If you’re carrying extra pounds, losing weight can dramatically reduce the force exerted on some joints. 

Post-traumatic arthritis is rarely severe enough to require a surgical solution, but it does occur when the symptoms don’t respond to conservative treatment while remaining serious enough to interfere with everyday life. 

You may need debridement if pieces of cartilage are floating loose within a joint. Joint fusion can stop pain and instability at the cost of some flexibility. In the most extreme cases, complete joint replacement may be necessary. 

Chances are, though, that there’s an easier alternative than surgery that will work for you. Contact the nearest office of Southern Westchester Orthopedics & Sports Medicine by phone or online to schedule a consultation for a diagnosis and treatment plan today.

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