Q&A with Dr Louise Warburton

A close up of a stethoscope with a man on a laptop in the background.

Can I swim after knee surgery?

I'd like to know if I’ll be able to get into a pool and swim two weeks after knee surgery?
Kevin M

Dr Louise Warburton says:

Hi Kevin, I doubt if your surgical incision will be properly healed within two weeks of meniscal surgery; the stitches may have only just been removed, so it wouldn't be safe to swim until the scar is well healed.

Generally, keeping active and fit will be very beneficial to you after your surgery, but please be guided by your surgeon about what activities you can do during your rehabilitation.

Is a hip replacement inevitable?

I’m a 63-year-old male with arthritis in my hip. According to my doctors, my x-rays show I have little or no cartilage left. I do hear cracking at times and my joint has become increasingly stiff. 

Having read your advice, I've started walking again and I'm up to 2 miles every other day. After about 10 minutes of walking, the pain tends to go away. Is a hip replacement inevitable for me or do you think if I can hold on for another year or two that alternatives on the horizon will come through and help me avoid such a drastic measure? Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated.

Dr Louise Warburton says:

Hi Michael, I'm delighted that you have managed to get up to 2 miles of walking; well done!

A hip replacement is not inevitable. Some data from Keele University about patients with knee osteoarthritis showed that only about 20% of 600 people followed up for two years actually needed a knee replacement. The rest of the people managed quite well themselves by losing weight, doing more exercise and taking adequate pain relief.

Keeping yourself fit is the best way to avoid surgery. Concentrate on both aerobic exercise which increases your heart rate and makes you breathless (jogging and cycling, for example) and strengthening exercises which involve lifting weights or pushing against static objects to increase muscle power. Improving the power of buttock muscles is important (gluteal exercises) and this can be done by swimming or seeing a physiotherapist to be shown exercises. Cycling is also very good. Pain relief in the form of paracetamol is fine but see your GP if this isn't enough.

Aim to get your BMI down to about 25 to take the load off your hips as well. Good luck!

What medication can I take?

I've recently been diagnosed with Scheuermann's disease and osteoarthritis. I'm in a lot of pain, but I can't take an ibuprofen as I'm asthmatic. Any advice please?
Suzanne O 

Dr Louise Warburton says:

I don’t know how old you are, Suzanne, but Schuermann’s disease is a problem with the thoracic spine normally diagnosed in teenage years. It can cause bad posture and curvature in the thoracic spine, and pain. Osteoarthritis is common in people over 45.

The cornerstones of management for any spinal condition are assessment by a physiotherapist or doctor to make a diagnosis and then to keep yourself fit by undertaking exercise. Yoga is particularly good for spinal pain and bad posture and, as it's quite gentle, it allows you to build up your strength gradually.

Painkillers aren’t always the best option for managing the pain of osteoarthritis and Schuermann’s, so it is well worth trying physical therapies such as physiotherapy and yoga. So, if you haven’t already seen a physiotherapist, ask your doctor or nurse to arrange an assessment.

Can arthritis affect only one joint?

I’m 27 years old and I've had a very painful and swollen joint in my right index finger for the past two years. Some days it's more painful and swollen than others. I went to my GP about this, concerned that it was arthritis, and he said it could not be arthritis as it’s only in one joint and nowhere else. Is this true?

It's getting more painful and my finger is visibly bigger compared to my left index finger. I feel like I'm not being taken seriously. Please help.
Soffi D

Dr Louise Warburton says:

It is possible to get arthritis in just one finger; some forms of psoriatic arthritis can affect just one finger and cause pain and swelling. Also, osteoarthritis occasionally causes swelling and pain in just one finger. You're very young to have osteoarthritis though.

I'd advise you to go back to your doctor and ask for a referral to a rheumatologist to assess what's happening with your finger. An x-ray would also be really useful.