Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic, often painful joint condition for which there is currently no cure. Yet, people with this condition can still find relief through personalized symptom management. By addressing issues like stiffness, swelling, and discomfort, practitioners can help patients improve their quality of life. Discover some of the most common treatment options and how they could help you below.
Anti-inflammatory and pain medications are well-known treatments for osteoarthritis. They’re usually prescribed or recommended by a doctor for managing joint pain and swelling caused by inflammation. In addition to pills, anti-inflammatories are available as injections and creams. Depending on your condition’s progression and pain levels, you may also be prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), hyaluronic acid, corticosteroids, or analgesics.
- NSAIDs: Celecoxib, ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen are NSAIDs commonly prescribed to treat OA pain and inflammation. However, long term use of anti-inflammatory medication can contribute to joint arthritis.
- Hyaluronic Acid: This is a naturally occurring acid found in the joints that acts as a lubricant and shock absorber. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis breaks this acid down, leaving the joints without any cushion or lubrication. To remedy this, the joints can be injected with hyaluronic acid. It is also available as an over the counter supplement in capsule form.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are perhaps the most powerful osteoarthritis treatment and may be injected by your physician or taken orally.
- Analgesics: Opioids (narcotics), atypical opioids, and acetaminophen are pain relievers which may be prescribed or recommended instead of NSAIDs.
Regular Exercise and Weight Management
Exercise and weight management are natural osteoarthritis treatments and are vital components of managing pain associated with the disease. Although it seems counterintuitive to exercise when you’re in pain, physical activity can reduce discomfort. Moreover, simply walking can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, another major component of managing osteoarthritis. Excess weight puts stress on the knees, back, feet and hips, thereby worsening the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Walking also keeps the joints moving and lubricated, reducing inflammation and stiffness.
Additionally, range-of-motion exercises guided by a physical therapist can be used to reduce stiffness. Improving the range of motion in your weight bearing joints helps stimulate the synovial fluid to lubricate the cartilage, improve its ability to protect the underlying bone and reduce pain.
Strength exercises may also be used to build muscles that are more resistant to pain. Finally, tai chi and yoga gently stretch joints, making them more flexible, which reduces pain and stiffness.
Alternative treatments and physical therapy are often used to improve joint flexibility and reduce swelling and pain. For instance, acupuncture, acupressure, intramuscular stimulation, and massage can alleviate discomfort levels. Hydrotherapy, massage, and physical and occupational therapy are often used to improve joint flexibility and reduce pain as well. These treatments may also include the use of assistive devices and hot/cold therapies. Finally, physiotherapy and regenerative photonic therapy are used to heal joint cells and tissues and reduce pain and inflammation.
If you have questions about osteoarthritis and would like to discover the many ways that physical therapy can benefit you, please contact us.