- Author Jeremy Smith
- Published March 22, 2012
- Word count 436
Osteoarthritis is a common condition that causes loss of flexibility, joint pain and stiffness. It occurs when the cartilage that protects joints wears down over time. The condition can interfere with the ability to perform everyday tasks and typically affects the hands, knees, hips and lower back. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are numerous treatment options that can relieve pain and preserve joint function.
Exercise is a treatment for osteoarthritis that can strengthen muscles surrounding joints and increase endurance. Swimming and walking are cardiovascular exercises that are gentle and will not stress the body. Regular weight training will keep muscles strong so that they can support joints and improve daily activities. Stretching relieves joint stiffness and can increase flexibility and range of motion. A physical therapist will be able to recommend an exercise and stretching plan that is safe for people with osteoarthritis.
Prescription medications and medications that can be obtained over-the-counter are effective at reducing pain, while others can treat the inflammation that typically occurs with osteoarthritis. Medications containing acetaminophen can alleviate mild-to-moderate pain, although they will not reduce damaging inflammation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are available via prescription and over-the-counter and treat osteoarthritis by reducing tenderness and inflammation.
Narcotics are generally prescribed for individuals experiencing severe pain that has not been relieved by other treatment methods. Corticosteroid injections are also effective at relieving discomfort and are injected directly into the affected area. Injections of hyaluronic acid, an ingredient that is similar to the fluid that is normally found in joints, can increase flexibility and provide relief from achy joints.
Creams and gels found over-the-counter are rubbed onto the affected joints and can provide temporary relief from pain. Some of these products create either a hot or cold sensation and work by numbing the area temporarily, while others contain medications that are absorbed by the skin.
Being overweight results in an increase in pressure and stress on joints, which can worsen symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can relieve excess pressure on joints and provide a noticeable difference in pain relief. A doctor will be able to provide tips and recommend a plan that encourages healthy weight loss.
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis that involves the insertion of tiny needles at specific points throughout the body. This treatment can provide relief from discomfort and make everyday activities easier.
While the discomfort and achiness associated with osteoarthritis can be effectively managed without surgery, it is an option for individuals whose pain is severe and debilitating. These surgical techniques can include joint replacement, joint fusion and osteotomy.