It is important that osteoarthritis is diagnosed and treated as early as possible to successfully manage symptoms. Making healthy lifestyle changes, managing stress and depression, avoiding joint damage, and balancing rest and activity will play a key role in treating pain caused by joint problems. Keep in mind that treatment may change as the disease progresses or improves. The goals for treating osteoarthritis include:
Osteoarthritis may respond to some alternative or complementary therapies. Chiropractic care is most commonly used to treat osteoarthritis and involves the manipulation and manual adjustment of the spine. Manipulation of some joints may help relieve osteoarthritis pain, but joint manipulation of weak or damaged joints could cause problems. Be sure to choose a chiropractor that has experience working with people with arthritis.
Diet is particularly important for people diagnosed with osteoarthritis. This is because excess weight directly contributes to the development of osteoarthritis. Therefore, weight control not only helps prevent osteoarthritis but can ease current symptom as well. Make sure you are getting enough nutrients to keep your body healthy and that the activities you choose don’t harm your joints. Some other dietary suggestions include the following:
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate - These two dietary supplements have been used to treat osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that seems to help reform and repair cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate is part of a protein that gives cartilage its elasticity.
Vitamins - Antioxidants in certain vitamins may help ease certain symptoms of osteoarthritis. Vitamin C can help counteract the progression of cartilage wear and tear as well as help with pain. Vitamin E may provide some pain relief. Also, Vitamin D may help prevent osteoarthritis.
Weight control - Weight loss specifically helps ease pressure on weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees, back and feet. Maintain your recommended weight or lose weight. Eat fewer calories and increase physical exercise to meet weight goals.
Sometimes you may still experience pain after using medications. In this case, you might try simple treatment from home. If you still hurt after using your medicine correctly and trying one or more of these suggestions, call your doctor. Another kind of medicine might work better for you.
Nondrug therapies and lifestyle changes are an important part of treating osteoarthritis. Make a plan with your doctor to help manage arthritis. This will help you feel that you're in charge of the condition. In fact, studies show that people who take control of treatment and actively manage arthritis experience less pain and function better. In general, try to reduce daily stresses and listen to your body by balancing rest and activity. Plan rest breaks in your day to avoid times of acute pain. Integrate balanced work and leisure activities in moderation. Consider the following when making changes in lifestyle:
Bracing - Bracing is a treatment option mostly used in combination with other types of treatments. Bracing can help stabilize an affected joint, allowing it time to heal after surgery or redistributing weight and limiting motion so you can better function in your daily life.
Exercise - Exercise is the most effective nondrug treatment for painIt is important that osteoarthritis is diagnosed and treated as early as possible to successfully manage symptoms. Making healthy lifestyle changes, managing stress and depression, avoiding joint damage, and balancing rest and activity will play a key role in treating pain caused by joint problems.
Organize and simplify your life - Rotate cleaning. Keep tools close to you for when you need them. Plan ahead for cooking and errand running so you minimize extra trips.
Practice relaxation techniques - Hypnosis, guided imagery, deep breathing and muscle relaxation can all be used to control pain.
Set realistic goals - Take some time to plan out your daily activities. Make a “to do” list that leaves you plenty of time to achieve all your tasks - and don’t add to it.
Take breaks - Don’t wait for the physical signals of pain before you rest. Take a 15-minute break each hour to give your body a break from repetitive tasks or sitting. Alternate heavy and light activities during the day.
Use good body mechanics - Learn good posture, which takes stress off the joints. Use larger muscles, rather than smaller ones, to carry things. Use your palms instead of your fingers when lifting or carry things. Lift with your legs instead of your back.
Use assistive device when you need them - Devices that help you open jars, reach for items, sit down and get up from a chair or toilet seat, can help manage pain.
Walk softly - Avoid walking fast or harshly. In other words, do not hit your feet on the ground because the vibrations this creates cause damage of the cartilage and lead to osteoarthritis.
Most people diagnosed with osteoarthritis seek drug therapy to ease the symptoms of the disease. Most drugs focus on relieving pain, but some target other symptoms or aim to slow disease progression. Some medications your doctor might consider include:
Analgesics - Analgesics relieve pain without relieving inflammation or swelling. Analgesics are recommended for people with mild-to-moderate pain. Examples of analgesics include acetaminophen, propoxyphene hydrochloride, and tramadol.
Cox-2 drugs - Cox-2 drugs are targeted nonsteroidal anit-inflammatory drugs that don’t cause stomach irritation.
Injectable glucocorticoids - Injectable glucocorticoids are steroids that are injected into the joint for fast, targeted pain relief. They are recommended as an alternative initial therapy for people with moderate-to-severe knee pain and signs of inflammation who do not get relief from acetaminophen three or four times a year.
Nonsteroidal anit-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - NSAIDs reduce inflammation and swelling. NSAIDs also relieve pain and are recommended for people with moderate-to-severe pain and signs of inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, naproxen, naproxen sodium and meloxicam.
Viscosupplements - Viscosupplements are used specifically for knee osteoarthritis and are administered by an orthopaedic surgeon. Surgeones inject hylauronic acid into the joint during this treatment.
Topical analgesics - Topical analgesics include creams or rubs applied directly over the painful area. Topical analgesics are usually available over-the-counter and often can be used in combination with oral medications to relieve pain.
While most people diagnosed with osteoarthritis won’t need surgery, it might be an option for you if you experience severe joint damage, extreme pain or very limited motion. The benefits of surgery include improved movement, pain relief and improved joint alignment. There are several different types of joint surgery. Below are the types of surgeries most commonly performed on people diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
Arthroscopic surgery - During this procedure, an orthopedic surgeon inserts a very thin tube with a camera and a light at the end into the joint through a small incision. The procedure allows the surgeon to visualize joint damage on a TV screen, take tissue samples, remove loose cartilage, repair tears, smooth a rough surface or remove diseased synovial tissue. Arthroscopic surgery is most commonly performed on the knee and shoulder.
Joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty) – Arthroplasty refers to the surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint. Joint replacement surgery involves the removal of the joint, resurfacing and relining of the ends of bones and replacing the joint with a man-made component. This procedure is usually recommended for people over 50 or who have severe disease progression. Typically a new joint will last between 20 and 30 years
Osteotomy - This procedure is used to increase stability by redistributing the weight on the joint by cutting bone. Osteotomy is useful in people with unilateral hip or knee osteoarthritis who are too young for a total joint replacement.
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