Painful and swollen hips, knees or shoulders can be stressful and debilitating for those affected, but joint specialists can usually relieve their discomfort. Orthopaedic medicine was widely practised by the physicians of ancient Rome and Egypt, although confined mainly to treating fractures and attempts to correct spinal deformities in children.
The first significant advances in the discipline came with the discovery of X-rays in 1895. A little earlier, in 1870, the invention of bone cement composed of rosin and plaster paved the way for the first, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to replace a diseased knee joint with a process. This procedure became known as arthroplasty and has been steadily perfected by new and improved materials and techniques.
Today, arthroplasty is claimed by most joint specialists to be the most successful orthopaedic intervention of all time. Such success is exceptionally fortunate in light of a steadily growing demand for joint replacements.
Why joint specialists are experiencing record demands for arthroplasty
Two main factors appear to be associated with the increased incidence of osteoarthritis, the most common reason for hip and knee replacement surgery. Firstly, in most developed countries, many people now tend to live considerably longer than their predecessors and are, therefore, more likely to develop signs of wear and tear on their joints.
However, more alarming is the increased incidence of this condition that once mainly affected those aged 65 or over in younger subjects aged 50 or even less. The more sedentary modern lifestyle and a preference for junk food may be affecting our joints as well as presenting other health risks like type 2 diabetes and cardiac disease.
Other reasons to consult joint specialists
Most of the articulating joints in the body are prone to injury. The following are some of the most common:
- Fractures: While most simple fractures can be reduced and repaired using traditional casts or splints, complex fractures or recurring breaks in long bones like the femur require sterner measures. The preferred technique in such cases is often to insert an intramedullary rod into the broken ends.
- Torn meniscus: This is a common injury among athletes and usually occurs due to a violent twisting of the knee in which a C-shaped cushion of protective cartilage known as the meniscus is damaged. Repairs to these tears typically involve a minimally invasive procedure in which the specialist views the joint’s interior through an arthroscope whilst manipulating miniature instruments via additional keyhole incisions.
- Rotator cuff injuries: The term refers to a group of muscles and tendons circling the shoulder joint and responsible for keeping the head of the upper arm bone securely in its socket. Degenerative or traumatic tears to one or more of these tendons are painful and may lead to repeated dislocations. Painkillers and physiotherapy provide some relief, but only surgery will offer a permanent solution.
World-class joint specialists in Pretoria
South Africans can take comfort in the knowledge that the Wilgers Life Hospital in Pretoria is home to a team of accomplished joint specialists led by Dr Jan de Vos. The centre is a national and international referral centre for arthroscopy and arthroplasty. Contact us for a consultation if you are experiencing chronic joint pain or mobility issues.