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Not all joints age equally

Read the original story in Fairhope Living Magazine here.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S. Osteoarthritis (OA), also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis and a leading cause of disability worldwide. In OA, the protective cartilage on the bones’ ends gradually breaks down and wears away, causing friction in the joint to increase. The membrane lining the joint (the synovium) becomes inflamed, bone spurs may form, and inflammation leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, and mobility loss. OA can affect any joint, but it is prevalent in large joints such as the hip, knee, and shoulder. 

So, why do some folks experience osteoarthritis and others don’t? The answer to this isn’t obvious. We know that as we age, we become more prone to wear and tear arthritis. In some people, a traumatic injury can lead to OA, while genetics or family history may play a role in others. Certain childhood conditions such as hip dysplasia can lead to early arthritis. Being overweight or obese has a tremendous impact on our joint health. Excess body weight is a strong risk factor for developing OA. 

While OA can be limited to a single joint, it often progresses to involve other joints. In some instances, OA pain in one joint can alter gait mechanics and prompt you to walk, stand, or move differently. This may force other joints (such as the hip or back) out of alignment and predispose them to OA as well. 

The treatment goals are primarily to control pain, preserve function and quality of life, maintain an active lifestyle, and optimize overall health and well-being. While there are no cures for 

OA, we have many ways to manage the disabling symptoms. I strive to tailor the treatment strategy to each individual and their goals. Treatment options may include: 

  • Diet and exercise: The most helpful advice is to maintain an ideal weight, avoid overusing damaged joints, and follow an exercise plan to strengthen the muscles that support the joint. Keeping the pounds down will unload the pressure placed on the joint with every step. Research has shown that every excess pound gained places an additional 3-4 lbs of pressure across the knee joint. Losing even a little bit of weight can have a significant impact on pain level and joint health.
  • Medication: The medications most commonly used are analgesics (pain relievers) such as acetaminophen and non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
  • Cortisone Injections: Injections of a steroid directly into the joint can often reduce pain by decreasing inflammation.
  • Viscosupplementation: This is an injection of hyaluronic acid into a knee to supplement synovial fluid’s viscous properties.
  • Surgery: Joint replacement surgery is recommended when symptoms are no longer controlled with conservative treatment. 

What is joint replacement surgery?
Joint replacement (total joint arthroplasty) is a surgical procedure that replaces or resurfaces the worn and damaged parts of an arthritic joint. The implants are designed to replicate the movement of a typical, healthy joint. The hip, knee, and shoulder are the most commonly replaced joints. It is reserved for individuals with arthritic pain that interferes with their daily activities such as work, exercise, hobbies, or recreation, and when conservative measures are no longer working. Advancements in technology, such as computer and robotic-assisted joint replacement,  are reducing complications and enhancing the recovery experience for patients. I employ the latest technology and techniques to improve outcomes and recovery. 

Dr. Michael J. Blackmer, a fellowship-trained joint replacement specialist, received his Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences and Master of Medical Science from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He completed his medical education at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, followed by a residency at Michigan State University, and completed his fellowship in adult reconstruction from the University of Chicago Department of Orthopaedics.

Dr. Blackmer has received extensive training in all areas of joint replacement surgery. He has a special interest in optimizing the patient outcome and experience with a customized treatment plan. This includes using the most advanced technology available for rapid recovery, computer and robotic-assisted surgery, minimally invasive and muscle-sparing techniques, direct anterior approach hip replacement, as well as complex revision surgery. 

Dr. Blackmer was born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He and his wife, Kristen, are raising three boys, Jaxon, Colton, and Brooks. He enjoys fishing, golfing, and coaching the boys’ sports. The Blackmer family is proud to call Baldwin County, Alabama, their home.

He is practicing in Fairhope and Foley; call 251-476-5050 to schedule an appointment.

For more than 40 years, patients throughout the Gulf Coast have chosen our orthopaedic doctors at The Orthopaedic Group, P.C., for specialized care in the spine, shoulder and elbow, hand and wrist, hip and knee, and foot and ankle.

Our fellowship-trained doctors have extensive education and experience in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating all orthopaedic injuries and conditions.

Experienced, Expert care for over 40 years.

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