For short-term joint pain — after an injury or surgery, perhaps — physicians and surgeons often prescribe opioid medications, also known as narcotic drugs. For long-term pain management, on the other hand, these medications are almost never appropriate.
Narcotic painkillers are highly addictive and extended use can result in dangerous side effects. For these reasons, opioid medication should only be used as a last resort, once all other treatment options have been exhausted.
Before considering opioid medications, you may prefer to explore the potential of alternative methods of joint pain relief.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Commonly referred to as NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs provide effective joint pain relief for many patients. These medications — which include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen — are available over the counter and are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional, as they contain no addictive properties.
Physical Therapy & Exercise Regimens
Though it might seem as if the opposite would be true, exercising can help alleviate joint pain. A physical therapist can recommend targeted, low-impact exercises that build muscle flexibility and range of motion, leading to healthier, pain-free joints.
Exercise can also assist in weight loss and shedding extra pounds can relieve pressure on the hips and knees, which may be contributing to the pain.
Making dietary changes can also work to help with weight loss. In addition, eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as olive oil, tomatoes, fatty fish, nuts and green, leafy vegetables has been shown in medical research to provide relief from chronic pain.
Conversely, consuming refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat and other foods that cause inflammation may increase pain levels.
Injecting corticosteroid medication into a problematic hip or knee can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Injections are typically performed every four to six months. For many patients, this treatment option helps to delay the need for joint replacement surgery.
Joint Replacement Surgery
Eventually, conservative treatments may fail to provide effective pain relief. When a painful hip or knee begins to limit daily activities and cause problems with mobility, orthopedic medicine specialists often recommend joint replacement surgery. Procedures to replace joints are highly successful and provide long-term relief from pain.
Open surgery is the traditional approach, but many orthopedic experts prefer the minimally invasive MAKOplasty™ robot-assisted joint replacement technique.
Are you suffering from joint pain? Dr. Trevor Magee, an orthopedic joint reconstruction specialist at Comprehensive Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, can help you find long-term relief.
As a board-certified, fellowship-trained joint expert, Dr. Magee understands how to help patients achieve pain relief without opioid medication. And if surgical treatment is necessary, Dr. Magee has extensive expertise with the revolutionary MAKOplasty™ robot-assisted joint replacement surgery technique.
Contact our Salt Lake City, Sandy or Park City office today to schedule a consultation to discuss your joint pain.