How Do You Treat Arthritis of the AC Joint?
When the cartilage is gone from the joint there is currently no way to replace it. As a result, one way to treat the arthritis is to modify your activities so as to not aggrevate the condition. This does not mean giving up activities entirely but it may mean doing certain ones less often or with less intensity. For example, weight lifters may do bench press only three-quarters of the way down instead of a full bench press, or to exercise their pectoralis muscle (muscle may stronger by bench press) they may instead do a lift called a butterfly which does not seem to irritate the joint as much as bench press.
Other ways to treat arthritis of the AC joint include the use of ice and medication. Application of ice to the joint decreases the pain and the inflammation at the joint. It is recommended that the more the joint hurts the more ice be used. Ice should be particularly applied after athletic activities, or if the joint is very sore, ice should be applied daily or as often as every two hours. Ice should be applied for twenty to thirty minutes directly to the joint either using an ice bag or by massaging the joint with ice cubes. Since the joint is relatively small ice massage can be very effective, and paper cups filled with water and placed in the freezer make great ice cones for massaging the joint.
Medication which typically can decrease the inflammation includes aspirin or medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are medications like aspirin but do not have to be taken as frequently as aspirin, and include ibuprofen (or Advil or Motrin), naprosyn (or Aleve), Feldene, Clinoril, Daypro, Indocin and others.
What Can Be Done If Those Treatments Do Not Work?
If rest, ice, medication and modifying your activity does not work, then the next step is a cortisone shot. One shot into the joint sometimes takes care of the pain and swelling permanently, but the effect is unpredictable and may not last forever. Usually no more than one or two cortisone shots are given before surgery is considered.