Osteoarthritis treatment involves a combination of therapies tailored to the patient's needs, lifestyle, and health. Osteoarthritis treatment has four general goals:
- Improve joint care through rest and exercise.
- Maintain an acceptable body weight.
- Control pain with medicine and other measures.
- Achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Treatment Approaches to Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis treatment plans often include ways to manage pain and improve function. Such plans can involve:
- joint protection
- pain relief
- weight control
- alternative and other natural treatments
Research shows that exercise is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis. Exercise can:
Exercise is also inexpensive and, if done correctly, has few negative side effects.
The amount and form of exercise will depend on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has already been done.
You can use exercises to:
- keep strong and limber
- extend your range of movement
- reduce your weight
Some different types of exercise include the following:
Ask your doctor or physical therapist what exercises are best for you. Ask for guidelines on exercising when a joint is sore or if swelling is present. Also, check if you should:
Treatment plans include regularly scheduled rest. Patients must learn to recognize the body's signals, and know when to stop or slow down, which prevents pain caused by overexertion. Some patients find help with:
Joint Protection and Assistive Devices
Some use canes and splints to protect joints and take pressure off them. Splints or braces provide extra support for weakened joints. They also keep the joint in proper position during sleep or activity. Splints should be used only for limited periods because joints and muscles need to be exercised to prevent stiffness and weakness. An occupational therapist or a doctor can help the patient get a proper fit.
Nondrug pain relief
People with osteoarthritis may find nondrug ways to relieve pain.
For osteoarthritis in the knee, patients may wear insoles or cushioned shoes to redistribute weight and reduce joint stress.
Osteoarthritis patients who are overweight or obese need to lose weight. Weight loss can reduce stress on weight-bearing joints and limit further injury. A dietitian can help patients develop healthy eating habits. A healthy diet and regular exercise help reduce weight.
For many people, surgery helps relieve the pain and disability of osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to:
- Remove loose pieces of bone and cartilage from the joint if they are causing mechanical symptoms of buckling or locking
- Resurface (smooth out) bones
- Reposition bones
- Replace joints
Surgeons may replace affected joints with artificial joints called prostheses. These joints can be made from metal alloys, high-density plastic, and ceramic material. They can be joined to bone surfaces by special cements. Artificial joints can last 10 to 15 years or longer. About 10% of artificial joints may need revision. Surgeons choose the design and components of prostheses according to their patient's:
- activity level
- other medical conditions
The decision to use surgery depends on several things. Both the surgeon and the patient consider the patient's level of disability, the intensity of pain, the interference with the patient's lifestyle, the patient's age, and occupation. Currently, more than 80% of osteoarthritis surgery cases involve replacing the hip or knee joint. After surgery and rehabilitation, the patient usually feels less pain and swelling, and can move more easily.