Treatment Options for Arthritis

The following question was recently submitted to us on our “Ask the Doctor” feature:

 My father is getting older and has no cartilage left in his knee. He currently does not have health insurance but has everyday pains. What are his best options?

There are several points to be taken from this topic.  First is health insurance.  Many people qualify for insurance through their employer.  Others may qualify for a Medicaid type program.  In Arizona, this program is called AHCCCS or Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.  AHCCCS has certain criteria that need to be met in order to qualify.  Medicare is another option for people.  In general, one must be 65 years old to qualify, but this is not absolute.  People with disability may qualify at a younger age, for example.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare, may offer new options to the uninsured in the future.  How exactly this will be carried out and enacted has yet to be fully seen.

While most patients have insurance, physicians will usually see patients who directly pay for their services.  Hospitals, facilities, and providers will often try to work out a discounted fee or payment plan for those without financial means.

The second point to be made is the orthopedic aspect of the question.  The loss of cartilage in the knee is arthritis.  In most circumstances, cartilage is worn out over time and symptoms gradually worsen.  There are some very basic treatments most people can try on their own with minimal financial burden.  Losing weight can have a significant impact on knee and arthritic pain.  Many patients often report their arthritis pain is less if they exercise and keep their muscles strong.  Over the counter medications can be used, with caution, including fish oil, glucosamine, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen, to name a few.  Please read labels to be sure one can safely take these medicines.  Ice and/or heat may be effective.  Others benefit from knee braces or shoe inserts that can be purchased at a local sporting goods store or drug store.  Most other treatment options require a visit to your doctor.

Written by Sean Brimacombe, MD



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