What is Arthroscopy and How Can It Help You?

What is Arthroscopy and How Can It Help You?

Arthroscopy is a type of minimally invasive surgery that allows doctors to examine and treat joint problems using a small device called an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a thin tube with a camera and a light at the end that can be inserted into a joint through a small cut in the skin. The camera sends images of the inside of the joint to a monitor, where the doctor can see the condition of the joint and perform any necessary procedures.

Arthroscopy can be used for many different joint conditions, such as inflammation, injuries, or loose pieces of bone or cartilage. Some of the most common joints that are examined and treated with arthroscopy are the knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle, hip, and wrist. Arthroscopy can help diagnose and treat problems such as:

  • Rotator cuff tears, impingement syndrome, and recurrent dislocations in the shoulder
  • Meniscal tears, chondromalacia, and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in the knee
  • Tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and arthritis in the elbow
  • Ankle sprains, fractures, and arthritis in the ankle
  • Labral tears, impingement syndrome, and arthritis in the hip
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, ganglion cysts, and arthritis in the wrist

Arthroscopy has many advantages over traditional open surgery. It is less invasive, which means less pain, swelling, bleeding, and scarring. It also has a shorter recovery time and lower risk of infection and complications. Most arthroscopic procedures can be done as outpatient surgery, which means you can go home on the same day.

If you have joint pain or stiffness that does not improve with conservative treatments such as rest, ice, medication, or physical therapy, you may benefit from arthroscopy. Talk to your doctor about whether arthroscopy is right for you and what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.


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How to Recover from Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that can help diagnose and treat joint problems, but it still requires some time and care to recover from. Here are some tips on how to recover from arthroscopy and get back to your normal activities as soon as possible.

Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for your joint after arthroscopy. These may include:

  • Taking pain medication as prescribed and avoiding anti-inflammatory drugs that can interfere with healing
  • Applying ice packs to the joint for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling and pain
  • Keeping the joint elevated above the level of your heart when possible
  • Changing the dressing or bandage on the incision site as directed and keeping it clean and dry
  • Avoiding soaking the joint in water until the stitches are removed
  • Using crutches, a sling, a brace, or a splint if needed to protect the joint and limit its movement
  • Attending follow-up appointments with your doctor and physical therapist

Do Physical Therapy Exercises

Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery from arthroscopy. It can help you regain your range of motion, strength, and function in the joint. Your physical therapist will design an exercise program tailored to your needs and goals. You may start with gentle exercises soon after surgery and gradually progress to more challenging ones as you heal. Some of the exercises you may do include:

  • Stretching exercises to improve your flexibility and prevent stiffness
  • Strengthening exercises to build up your muscles and support your joint
  • Balancing exercises to improve your stability and coordination
  • Functional exercises to simulate your daily activities and prepare you for returning to work, sports, or hobbies

It is important to follow your physical therapist’s instructions and do your exercises regularly at home. You may also use heat, cold, massage, or electrical stimulation as part of your physical therapy program.

Resume Your Activities Gradually

Follow Your Doctor's Instructions

The time it takes to resume your normal activities after arthroscopy depends on several factors, such as the type of joint, the extent of the surgery, and your overall health. In general, most people can return to work within a few days to a few weeks after arthroscopy, depending on their job requirements. You may need to modify your work duties or use adaptive equipment until you fully recover.

You can also resume driving when you have enough strength and control in the joint and you are no longer taking narcotic pain medication. You may need to check with your insurance company before driving after surgery.

You can start doing low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling within a few weeks after arthroscopy. You may need to wait longer before doing high-impact or contact sports such as running, jumping, or playing football. Your doctor will advise you when it is safe for you to return to your favorite sport.


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Arthroscopy – Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2023 from

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