Ask Dr. Hansen: How Do You Approach Arthritis Pain Treatment?
Dr. Dane Hansen explains that selecting a treatment plan for arthritis pain is a collaborative process.
More than 50 million American adults have been diagnosed with arthritis. We don’t think of arthritis as a deadly disease, and many people accept arthritis pain as a part of life. But leaving arthritis untreated can have more serious consequences than we realize. Arthritis specialist and surgeon Dr. Dane Hansen discusses his approach to managing his patients’ arthritis pain.
The health impact of arthritis pain
“Arthritis may not be fatal, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious,” Dr. Hansen explains. “This disease is the leading national cause of disability. Arthritis pain can limit activity and lead to weight gain and other health concerns. It can prevent you from maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When I sit down with my patients, my focus is on their symptoms and their lifestyle priorities. I want to know how severe their symptoms are, and how much that arthritis pain is limiting them from living the life they want to live. As part of that process, I help them understand the treatment options available.”
Patient priorities shape the treatment plan
“Everyone has an idea about the activity level they want,” says Dr. Hansen. “Patients also have individual thresholds about the kinds of medical treatment they are willing to consider. Some people have concerns about surgeries, and rightly so. Often, these patients are managed with injections and other conservative treatments. We have a variety of noninvasive treatment options to keep people functioning at a level that they consider acceptable.”
However, conservative treatments may not deliver the results that highly active patients want. “I can have two patients with arthritis conditions that look very similar on an X-ray,” offers Dr. Hansen. “One might be delighted that injections enable him to play with his grandchildren. The other might find that injections aren’t enough. She wants to enjoy the 50-mile bike rides she loves, so we might consider surgical options that will keep her on her bike. Same diagnosis—but two very different treatment plans.”
The best approach to arthritis pain treatment is collaborative
“I make treatment decisions in partnership with my patients,” says Dr. Hansen. “Everyone’s goals are different. Treating arthritis pain is a person-by-person process that starts with education about medically appropriate solutions. Then, I help my patients choose the treatment that’s the best fit for their own values.
“It’s easy to skip over this education and deliberation,” Dr. Hansen acknowledges. “I pride myself on making sure people feel comfortable with what I’m telling them. I want my patients to fully understand their options and feel comfortable with their treatment plan. These conversations may take extra time and effort, but the reward is worth it.”
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