Health Beat: Arthritis myths

News 8 Austin—December 4, 2010

When you hear the term arthritis, you probably just think of basic aches and pains, but you probably didn’t know it’s the leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting 46 million Americans. One joint specialist says those who try for a quick fix can be throwing time, money and their sanity down the drain.
Are you tired of that constant, nagging pain? That pain is a two billion dollar annual business, partly because a whole bunch of products claim to relieve arthritis.

"I'm not in favor of running to a doctor. I'm old school Italian," says Al Vacchiano, who suffers from arthritis.

You name it, tennis champ Al Vacchiano tried it for his knee, but the pain stayed.

After five years, he tried the least invasive surgical option, arthroscopy, but by then he had advanced arthritis and surgery made it worse.

"Now your joint's going to be all sore and inflamed from the surgery that you had, so most patients are actually much worse after an arthroscopy," Geoffrey Westrich, M.D., co-director of joint replacement research at Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York, explained.

Doctor Westrich says advanced pain patients should ditch those unproven pills, devices, and minimally invasive surgery for bone-on-bone arthritis. He says joint replacement is the best option.

"Patients are much better having one anesthetic, one correct operation, than having to have two operations with two anesthesias," Dr. Westrich said.

"I'd like to play another 10 years … or 15 years," Vacchiano said.
Back on the court now, Al’s partial knee replacement taught him a big lesson, quick fixes aren’t always winning options. Doctors say creams, medications and even injections can help in the short run during the early stages of arthritis, and experts say folks should see a doctor before the pain gets unbearable. If pain lasts longer than two weeks, it's time to ask for help.


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