Ask Dr. Hansen: Can Arthritis Pain Be Managed Without Surgery?
Summit’s arthritis specialists offer a broad range of nonsurgical treatments to manage arthritis pain.
Arthritis is all around us. There are more than 100 types of this degenerative joint condition: all cause the slow loss of cartilage. According to the Arthritis Foundation, about 54 million adults have been diagnosed with this disabling disease. “No one wants to live with chronic arthritis pain,” admits arthritis specialist Dr. Dane Hansen. “This is a tough disease. We still don’t fully understand what causes it and we don’t have a way to reverse it. However, there is good news. Although surgery is a treatment for arthritis, having arthritis doesn’t mean that surgery is a given. At Summit, we offer a number of nonsurgical treatments to manage pain and help keep patients engaged in the activities they love.”
The first step in management is a thorough medical diagnosis
“Before I even consider a treatment plan, I need to know where my patient is,” explains Dr. Hansen. “A medical diagnosis is about figuring out what each patient is looking for and how severe their symptoms are. Where are they on the arthritis spectrum? I want to know how much arthritis is limiting them. Can they get out of bed in the morning? Is arthritis affecting their work life? Once I understand that, I can educate my patients about the treatment options available.”
Patient values have a starring role in arthritis pain management
“It’s my job to make my patients feel comfortable with their options,” explains Dr. Hansen. “Fixing the problem is just one part of our conversation. I want them to understand what’s going on with the joint, understand how pain management works, and be prepared for what to expect down the road. I use my expertise to help patients identify the medically appropriate solution that’s best for their own values. That is a part of treatment that can get skipped over very easily. I try very hard, and pride myself on making sure people feel that we have a plan in place, and that it’s a plan they understand and embrace.”
“Arthritis treatment is a patient choice,” says Dr. Hansen. “First, I find out how my patients feel about where they are from a lifestyle standpoint. Then I help them through the process of evaluating the treatment options that will get them to where they are comfortable. In some cases, treatment may be very minimal. I may never ever perform surgery on some patients. I have patients who manage arthritis pain on their own. They maintain a stable point where they feel fine and are able to do everything they want to do.”
Conservative treatments are designed to maintain a healthy lifestyle
“We make treatment decisions in partnership with our patients,” says Dr. Hansen. “Everyone’s goals are different; there may be people who want to wait, and others who want the chance to improve their activity as early as possible. This is a person-by-person process of education about all the options and the decision that is best for the individual. That’s one of the most difficult and rewarding parts of my work: helping people through this process. Each patient has a personal definition of the activity level that is comfortable for them.”
One of the challenges with arthritis is that this disease can limit activity and lead to weight gain and related health concerns. “Some of the conservative treatments I discuss are measures that enable my patients to maintain function and a healthy lifestyle,” explains Dr. Hansen.
- Anti-inflammatory medication. Inflamed joints are a manageable symptom of arthritis. In some cases, an anti-inflammatory is enough to ease pain and support healthy function.
- Nutrition consult. “When it hurts to move, it’s hard to stay active,” states Dr. Hansen. “Weight gain is a risk for arthritis patients. Extra weight puts added stress on joints and raises risks of other health problems. Sometimes conservative treatment means a nutrition consult to help a patient lose weight.”
- When anti-inflammatories aren’t enough to control joint pain, injections are another option to ease discomfort.
Expertise matters in guiding conservative management of arthritis pain
“Medical practice is a constant commitment in education—even within a subspecialty like arthritis,” says Dr. Hansen. “Because arthritis is our sole focus, Summit’s arthritis team has the resources and the expertise to follow the latest advances in conservative treatment options. This is especially important for younger arthritis patients. They need safe, effective long-term treatment options that avoid the concerns associated with narcotics and some pain medications.”
When to seek treatment for your arthritis
Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of only two surgery centers nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
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“Arthritis patients have high expectations for their activity level. With advanced training in minimally invasive surgical techniques and quick-recovery joint replacement, I strive to help my patients return to their fully active lifestyle as quickly as possible.”
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