Joint manipulation treatment

What is joint manipulation?

Joints, such as the toes, knees and hips, can sometimes become painful and stiff. This can be due to muscle spasm, slight misalignment in the joint, trapped tissue or a tight joint capsule. Joint manipulation may be used to help relieve muscle tension and pain and improve the range of movement.

Joint manipulation is usually done under general anaesthesia. For this reason the procedure is often called manipulation under anaesthesia or MUA for short. As you are asleep throughout, your muscles will be completely relaxed, making it easier to manipulate the joint. Sometimes, joint manipulation is done under local or regional anaesthesia, which means that you will still be awake, but the joint involved will be completely numb.

Joint manipulation is usually performed as a day-case, with no overnight stay in hospital.

Your surgeon will explain the benefits and risks of having a joint manipulation, and will discuss the alternatives to the procedure.

About the procedure

Your surgeon will use his or her hands to move the joint, taking it to its full capacity. The procedure usually takes about 20 minutes.

You will be able to go home once you have made a full recovery from the anaesthesia. Once home, it’s sensible to take it easy for the first day. You may find you have some slight discomfort in the joint for a couple of days, but a successful joint manipulation should give you more movement than you had before.

It’s crucial that you continue with the exercises recommended by your physiotherapist, as these will help you to maintain movement in the joint.

Joint manipulation is a commonly performed procedure. However, all medical treatment carries an element of risk.

There is a risk that the joint may be damaged during manipulation under anaesthesia. A ligament, muscle or tendon (tough bands of tissue in joints) may be torn, or a bone may be broken. This could result in pain and possible long-term joint problems. It is also possible that your joint will be more, rather than less, painful after the treatment.

The chance of a problem depends on the exact type of procedure you are having, the joint that is being treated, and other factors such as your general health. You should ask your surgeon to explain how any risks apply to you.

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