Taking care of your joints is a big deal because an active lifestyle requires healthy joints. Joint pain or injury is a very common cause of frustration, lost time at work, missed time in sports, or lower quality of life because you can’t do the things you want to do. If you have joint pain or a joint injury, regardless of whether you’re a competitive athlete, an outdoor enthusiast, or just someone who needs to keep working or chasing kids, Intermountain’s sports medicine doctors will take good care of you. With our nonsurgical approach to care, we emphasize effective, noninvasive treatments that decrease pain, build strength, and promote healthy use of your joints.

Symptoms of Joint Injuries

Your body is full of joints, from your toes to your shoulders. Since you use them every day, you have to keep an eye out for them. Listen to your body. If you’re suffering from one or more of the following, you might need our expert evaluation and care:

  • Joint pain (ache or sharp pain)
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Redness or fevers
  • Stiffness or decreased range of motion
  • Weakness
  • Instability (giving out) or locking

Joint Injury Treatments

Our goals for treating you are five-fold:

  1. Determine the correct underlying cause (what’s really going on?) – we use questions, physical exam, and in-office tools such as x-ray and ultrasound to determine what your problem is.
  2. Relieve your pain and suffering – we identify the most effective methods of treatment and help you choose which are right for you and your goals.
  3. Help you become more physically active or return you as quickly and safely as possible to your activities – our doctors and athletic trainers, therapists, and exercise physiologists work together to design home-based exercise programs when appropriate to help you heal and get active.
  4. Minimize your costs – we’re sensitive to the cost of your care, and before ordering expensive tests or treatments we’ll help you understand why these might be important or necessary and help you decide if they’re right for you.
  5. Get the best possible outcome possible – we choose the most effective, but also least invasive treatments possible. Some studies estimate that 90% of joint injuries don’t require surgery to correct them. If we determine that you do need surgery, we can quickly refer you to the most appropriate orthopedic surgeon.

Common treatments for joint pain or injury include:

  • Rest – we help you find the right balance between not doing too much but also doing enough early movement and activity to help promote healing.
  • Protection – braces, casts, splints, tape or other devices can be used to protect the joint during healing.
  • Medications – we guide you through your options, including oral medicines, topical medicines, and even injection options.
  • Injections – we utilize several different types of injections (cortisone, lubricants, platelets, etc.) to help relieve pain and/or treat the underlying problem.
  • Therapeutic exercise – as noted above, our doctors and athletic trainers, therapists, and exercise physiologists work together to design exercise programs to help you heal and get active.

Joint Effusion and Aspiration

An effusion is swelling or fluid build-up in a joint. It can happen because of a variety of different reasons. Most often, in athletes, effusions occur shortly after or during the recovery of a serious injury. Effusion typically causes significant pain and can potentially slow down healing. This can affect your recovery and ultimately your performance, even after you have fully recovered from your previous injury.

To alleviate the pain that the fluid causes in your joints, you can ice your knee, use compression wraps, elevate the affected joint and use nsiads (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen or Aleve). If the effusion is large enough or lasts long enough, you may have joint aspiration done. Joint aspiration is a procedure that is performed by one of our sport medicine specialists that involves extracting the fluid from your joints with a needle and a syringe. This process usually only requires a local anesthetic and is relatively quick.

Most of the time, joint aspirations are performed on the knee of an athlete, but they can also be done around the hip, shoulder, ankle, elbow, or wrist.

Treating Joint Effusions Quickly

Maintaining good health and performance requires that you pay attention to the things your body needs. If you are experiencing strange pain in your joints, don’t just ignore it; make sure that you get yourself into a sports medicine specialist as soon as possible.

Our sports medicine physicians are some of the best in the entire state of Utah. No matter what the problem with your joints is, they can diagnose you and suggest appropriate treatment methods.