About Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in Los Angeles, which results in the gradual deterioration and loss of cartilage in the affected joint without expert post-traumatic arthritis treatment. While it tends to be most common in the knee, one of the most overused joints in the body, it can develop in any joint, including:

    • Hips
    • Shoulders
    • Elbow
    • Wrist
    • Ankle

Osteoarthritis has traditionally been associated with “wear and tear” and aging, but it can also result from prior injuries to the joint, such as in post-traumatic arthritis. It can also be caused by certain underlying illnesses. Arthritis generally develops in older adults, but post-traumatic arthritis can affect people of all ages.

When Will Post-Traumatic Arthritis Develop?

Athletes and highly active individuals who suffered a sports injury or traumatic accident in childhood or adolescence for example could potentially develop the post-traumatic arthritis years or even decades later after the event. However, other patients may begin to develop post-traumatic arthritis immediately following an injury, depending on a number of factors, including age, type of injury, overall health, and genetics. The amount of time it takes for arthritis symptoms to develop will vary from one patient to the next, so it is crucial to schedule an evaluation with an orthopedic specialist, such as Dr. Allison, an orthopedic specialist based in Los Angeles, CA, to address any joint injuries or subsequent pain or arthritis symptoms.

Causes & Risk Factors for Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Injury and trauma-related arthritis are some of the most common causes of cartilage and joint degeneration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over five million people in the United States alone are diagnosed with trauma related osteoarthritis every year, which accounts for 12% of all cases of OA.

The lifetime risk of developing post-traumatic arthritis in the knee is estimated to be 57% for anyone with a previous injury like an ACL tear or a bone fracture. Physical trauma in any form can lead to the loss of protective cartilage in the joint.

Minimally Invasive Joint Replacement Surgery

Dr. Allison specializes in minimally invasive anterior hip replacement and joint reconstruction in adult and pediatric patients. In some cases, complications may arise after a total or partial joint replacement that requires a revision surgery. Hip replacement surgery involves removing the damaged portions of cartilage and bone in the joint and replacing them with metal and plastic prosthetic pieces.

Signs & Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe depending on the person. Advanced cases of osteoarthritis can cause chronic pain and mobility problems in the affected joint.

The most common symptoms are:
    • Pain and tenderness
    • Swelling and inflammation
    • Stiffness in the joint, especially first thing in the morning or after long periods of inactivity
    • Limited range of motion
    • Bone spurs
    • Loose particles of cartilage floating in the joint space

Learn more about osteoarthritis at cdc.gov

The Most Common Arthritis-Related Traumatic Injuries
    • Sports injuries (with contact sports like football, soccer, and basketball being the most conducive to stress fractures, muscle and ligament tears, sprains, and joint injuries)
    • Impact from a fall
    • Car accidents
    • Side effects and complications from a previous surgical procedure

In addition to the impact from a traumatic incident, there are secondary lifestyle factors that can also put children and adolescents at a greater risk for joint problems in the future. Increasing obesity rates and weight problems among young children puts greater pressure on the joints, making them more susceptible to injuries. Once an injury occurs, the risk for re-injury increases significantly, making patients who have suffered a sports-related lower extremity (the most common type) incident three to five times more likely to suffer a recurrence. This may be due in part to the initial injury never healing properly, and insufficient physical therapy and rehabilitation time.

While it may be tempting for many young athletes to return to their sport as soon as possible after being sidelined by an injury, completing a comprehensive physical therapy and rehabilitation plan, and taking enough time off to allow the injury to heal properly is the best way to avoid further complications in the future.

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop many years after the initial injury or as a result of repeat injuries in the same joint. A little time off in the short term will go a long way towards preventing potentially permanent joint damage in the long run.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Cartilage & Joint Degeneration in Los Angeles

Arthritis and joint degeneration are typically diagnosed by way of a physical exam and comprehensive medical history, including evaluation of previous injuries and treatment in cases where post traumatic arthritis is suspected. Diagnostic imaging exams like X-ray and MRI are also common. Some orthopedic surgeons use arthroscopy, which involves making several small incisions and inserting a small surgical scope with a camera and a light to help assess the damage inside the joint in greater detail.

Post-traumatic arthritis treatment usually begins with conservative methods like rest, medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications like quitting smoking and weight management for overweight and obese patients. Surgery is usually reserved for advanced cases that have not responded or yielded limited results with conservative post-traumatic arthritis treatment.