Arthrodesis vs. Arthroplasty
Arthrodesis is a bone fusion surgery. Chiropractic care may help people avoid or recover from arthrodesis. Arthrodesis (artificial ankylosis, syndesis) is a type of surgery that makes bones immobile. If the patient is experiencing too much pain in a joint, and if all traditional medical methods of treatment, such as splints, pain medication, or similar methods, have been exhausted, this type of surgery may be performed. Pain from fractures, arthritis, and other disorders of the hand, ankle, foot, and spine might all qualify for arthrodesis. Historically, doctors used arthrodesis for hip and knee pain. But arthroplasty is now the preferred surgical treatment for those conditions.1 Arthroplasty is the replacement, realignment, or remodeling of the musculoskeletal joint. Arthroplasty is used for pain management. It is most commonly used in hip replacement surgery, such as for patients with osteoarthritis.2
What is Arthrodesis?
Arthrodesis, on the other hand, may be indicated if the attempted treatment of arthroplasty has not been adequately successful. It can be done as a bone graft by using the patient’s bone, a method known as autograft, or with the use of a donor’s bone, which is known as allograft. Autograft is the preferred replacement method because osteoblasts, the bone containing cells that are responsible for making the bones, and cells that are native and familiar to the patient’s body are more likely to be effective. Additionally, autograft does not require that the patient rely on a donor for the procedure.
If the patient does not have enough supply to do an autograft, however, then an allograft is used as a backup alternative. The process of allograft, however, has the added challenges of going through the process of deep freezing, demineralization, and temporarily irradiating the alternative bone, thereby killing the foreign living cells. There are also “synthetic bone substitutes” and metal implants that are available and can be used in joining bones. Surgical recovery can take time of anywhere from weeks to more than a year. The fusion that results from the surgery can also strengthen the bones.3
Chiropractors can work with patients who are experiencing musculoskeletal joint pain to help prevent the need for medical interventions and surgery from arising in the first place. Generally, if the patient has the option to be treated without invasive methods or medications, they should consider such an alternative option first as it is less likely to carry risks. However, chiropractic care and other types of complementary and alternative medicine are not always the solution. Absent those options, patients who have already undergone arthrodesis and other types of surgical treatments can still seek the help of a practitioner of chiropractic care, especially if they have not had enough pain management. While patients are recovering from arthrodesis, they need to avoid such actions as twisting, straining, or putting pressure on the bones. They may also receive physical therapy during their recovery year. Some patients have reported worsening pain after surgery.
Chiropractors are specially trained in treating patients as individuals, taking care to do adjustments that meet their patients’ specific needs. Patients who have undergone bone fusion will have a lot of specific needs tailored to their recovery. They should be sure to mention if they have had arthrodesis or any other invasive procedures.4
Chiropractic Care After Bone Fusion Surgery
Many chiropractors are skilled at post-surgical adjustments. They will know what to do if they are informed of their patient’s physical condition. Spinal adjustment and distraction decompression, but not rotational methods, may be best for spinal fusion patients, for example. After the first year of recovery from surgery, patients can seek a chiropractor trained in treating post-surgical patients through the approval and recommendation of their surgeon, physical therapist, or the American Chiropractic Association. Chiropractic treatment after arthrodesis should not be sought sooner than the patient receives approval. This is because it is likely to put pressure on the bones during the delicate time of the recovery year. It is important to find a chiropractor who has been trained in how to handle patients who are in recovery from surgery.5
Bone fusion can lead to strains in other parts of the body that are compensating for the lack of movement. Chiropractors can treat the areas around the fused region, such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Chiropractors are also able to treat many other ailments that patients might have, both those that have occurred as a result of the surgery or parts of the body that were otherwise damaged.
Patients can then do special exercises and learn how to move so that they do not create more injuries. Bad ergonomic habits and improper compensation might go a long way in causing further complications. Chiropractors are likely to have ideas for tools to use or good habits to practice to avoid more unintentional damage. Patients who follow the exercises that were tailored to their condition and practice healthy habits are more likely to see improvement in between visits to the chiropractor or physical therapist.6
Learn more about chiropractic options after back surgeries.