Because May is Arthritis Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to learn a bit more about the condition. There are two types of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis. We’re going to focus on osteoarthritis, which occurs when joint cartilage wears down over time. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects over 32.5 million adults in the US. The following arthritis treatment options may help people with osteoarthritis manage their symptoms.
1. Oral Pain Medication
One of the arthritis treatment options that people try first is pain medication. This includes over-the-counter pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Common NSAIDs include aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin). Prescription NSAIDs are also available if OTC versions do not help. Other prescription pain relievers may be given, but only on a temporary basis due to side effects.
Some people find relief from arthritis pain after they get injections of corticosteroid medication. These injections are only available with a prescription and given in the doctor’s office. The most common steroids used in these injections are prednisone and cortisone. This arthritis treatment is often used alongside other treatments like oral medication.
3. Topical Pain Relievers
Along with oral medication, there are topical medications available to treat the pain of arthritis. Instead of taking a pill, you rub a cream or ointment over the part of the body that is in pain. Most are topical NSAIDs that can help with pain without the gastrointestinal side effects of oral NSAIDs.
4. Physical Therapy
Many people with arthritis find that physical therapy helps with their pain and mobility in a big way. As an arthritis treatment, physical therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles that support your joints and helps reduce joint stiffness. It can also improve your range of motion and help you move, sit, and stand more comfortably.
While it can be hard to get moving when your joints hurt, exercise is actually one of the most effective arthritis treatment options for people with osteoarthritis. It can relieve pain and improve joint health and function over time. Just make sure you stick to low-impact activities such as swimming or yoga. If you haven’t exercised in a while, check with your doctor about how to safely start a workout routine.
6. Hot & Cold Therapy
Apply heat and ice packs to aching joints can provide temporary relief for arthritis pain. It only works for a while, but for some people, it’s a useful arthritis treatment during flare-ups or at the end of a long day.
7. Weight Loss
If you are carrying extra weight, your joints are under more stress. This can make the symptoms of arthritis worse. Getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it can take some pressure off of damaged joints and relieve some pain. The best weight loss strategy is modifying your diet so it is lower in calories (but still high in nutrients) and being more physically active. Talk to your doctor about how to safely change your diet.
Certain supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin may experience relief from symptoms, but they don’t work for everyone. Doctors also caution against taking unproven supplements to treat arthritis pain. These supplements are not regulated by the FDA so they might not work and could even be dangerous. You should talk to your healthcare provider before starting a supplement to make sure it’s safe and effective.
If the joints affected by arthritis are severely damaged and symptoms are not relieved with the above treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery. Joint replacement surgery can help restore mobility and relieve pain, but not everyone is a candidate. Common joint replacement surgeries include knee replacement, hip replacement, and elbow replacement. Physical therapy is also required after joint replacement.
At South Shore Orthopedics, our board-certified surgeons are committed to helping you live life to the fullest. Our team includes physicians specializing in joint replacement and can evaluate your condition to see if you’re a good candidate for surgery. If you suffer from arthritis pain and want to see what your treatment options are, call our office at (781) 337-5555 to make an appointment
During the COVID-19 pandemic, SSO’s priority is keeping our patients and staff healthy and safe. Our office continues to operate on a daily basis Monday – Friday from 8 am – 4 pm and we have implemented CDC recommended procedures regarding temperature checks, social distancing, and face coverings. We have been focusing on seeing urgent or emergent cases in-office but have telehealth appointments for nonemergent cases. Click here to read our latest coronavirus update in its entirety.