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Post Traumatic Arthritis.

Post Traumatic Arthritis


Post-traumatic arthritis causes pain and stiffness in the joint affected by a previous injury. There are several causes of post-traumatic arthritis and symptoms that indicate the condition, but a proper evaluation will be needed by a doctor to ensure that the arthritis is post-traumatic.

What is Post- Traumatic Arthritis?

Post-traumatic arthritis is an inflammation of joints that occurs as a result of is distinct from other forms of arthritis where the condition comes from years of wear and tear. Post-traumatic arthritis, but can also become a chronic condition that has similar symptoms to osteoarthritis.

Some people confuse osteoarthritis with post-traumatic arthritis, but they have different causes. Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of cartilage around the joints and is the most common form of arthritis instead of a traumatic injury or joint injury.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis Symptoms & Causes

Post-traumatic arthritis symptoms include:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • swelling
  • tenderness or sensitivity to touch

It’s important to note that any joint in the body can develop post-traumatic arthritis, but it is most commonly found in the following:

  • hips
  • elbows
  • knees
  • ankles
  • Shoulders

The causes of post-traumatic arthritis include any injury to the joints such as car accidents, sports injuries, or falls. Any event or incident that damages the bones can wear down the cartilage in the joints faster than natural processes, especially if injuries repeatedly affect the same joint.

Surgery & Treatment Options

The symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis are similar to those of other arthritis symptoms and require a physical exam and imaging tests for proper diagnoses. During the exam, your doctor will discuss. For tests, your healthcare provider may run the following:

  • X-rays: This will confirm how much damage is done to the joints as a result of injuries.
  • CT scan: Usually is done when surgery is needed to repair the joint and helps doctors to know the extent of the damage. 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This is to get a complete picture of the damage affecting your joint and the surrounding area, such as the tendon, ligament, and cartilage. 


Treatment for post-traumatic arthritis includes:

  • Low-impact exercise: Activities such as swimming and biking allow for you to not have to put your full weight on the joints and can help reduce pain while helping you to move it.
  • Weight loss: Reducing weight helps to lessen the stress on the affected joints.
  • Wearing a brace: a brace around the joint helps to reduce tension and to hold it in place
  • Physical therapy: To help increase the strength and flexibility around the injured joint, your doctor may recommend a physical therapist to create customized exercises and movements. 

Surgery is a rare treatment for post-traumatic arthritis, usually only recommended for arthritis that is so severe that it impedes everyday activities and your quality of life, or if severe pain persists for months. When surgery is needed, there are several options for patients:

  • Debridement: Removing damaged tissue and/or reshaping bones to treat arthritis
  • Joint replacement (arthroplasty): The damaged joint is replaced with an artificial joint made of metal, plastic, or ceramic.
  • Rarely a Joint fusion (arthrodesis) is required: A plate is inserted and screwed to the bones to keep the joints together, creating more stability and reducing pain, but also limiting flexibility and movement.
A doctor inspecting a patient whose knees have been replaced.

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