Osteoarthritis

Treatment

Unfortunately, there's no known cure for osteoarthritis, but there are a number of treatments can help to reduce your pain and maintain your joint movement.

Medications

  • Paracetamol is a pain reliever. It is effective for people with osteoarthritis who have mild to moderate pain.
  • NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. One of the most common NSAIDs is ibuprofen and is available without a prescription at your pharmacist.
  • Tramadol. Tramadol is another type of pain reliever that can be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Opiods. Opiods such as morphine are very strong pain killers that can provide relief from severe osteoarthritis. However, these medications can have significant side effects and must be carefully monitored by your doctor.
  • Steroid Injections. Injections of corticosteroid into your joint may help with your pain. However, it's most useful for arthritis caused by an inflammatory process such as rheumatoid arthritis rather than osteoarthritis.

Allied Health

  • Exercises. A physiotherapist can help you will strengthen the muscles around your joint, increase the flexibility of your joint and reduce your pain.
  • Changing the way you do things. There are many things you can change around your home to help you with your normal daily activities. An occupational therapist can help you with this.
    • For example
      • Osteoarthritis of the Hand
        • a toothbrush with a large grip
      • Osteoarthritis of the Knee
        • a shower seat
      • Osteoarthritis of the Hip
        • techniques to help put on your shoes
  • Orthotics. Orthotics include braces, splints, shoe inserts and custom made shoes. These special devices can help support or immobilise the joint, thereby reducing your pain.

Surgery

  • Arthroscopy | Key hole surgery. Arthroscopy is key hole surgery where surgical cameras and instructions are placed into the joint through small incisions. During the arthroscopy, the joint can be cleaned out and loose cartilage removed. This procedure often only provides limited relief.
  • Joint replacement. In joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty), your damaged joint surfaces are removed and then replaced with artifical jonts (called prosthesis). These artifical joints are usually made of plastic or metal. The most common joints that are replaced are hips and knees.
  • Osteotomy | Realigning your bones. An osteotomy is a procedure where your bones are realigned to redistribute the pressure. A common location for an osteotomy is around the knee.
  • Arthrodesis | Fusing bones. Your joint can be fused to eliminate the movement around that joint and drastically improve your pain. A common location of an arthrodesis is the ankle and big toe.

Changing the Way You Do Things

  • Rest. Resting your joint after your pain has flared up will help relieve your pain temporarily. Try to avoid activities that aggravate you pain. By modifying the way you do things, can help avoid painful episodes.
  • Exercise. Gentle exercises, such as walking, cycling or swimming will keep the muscles around your joint strong and healthy. This is important, as strong muscles will help stabilise the joint and aid your sense of balance. Importantly, it will also keep the rest of your body healthy and fit.
  • Lose weight. Being overweight increases the stress on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees and your hips. Even a small amount of weight loss can relieve some pressure and reduce your pain.
  • Heat and Cold Treatments. Both heat and cold treatments can help provide relief from your pain. Having a warm bath or using a hot water bottle can help relieve joint stiffness. Using ice packs can help with muscle spasm.
  • Pain creams and ointments. Creams and gels available from your chemist may provide temporary relief from osteoarthritis pain. Some creams numb the pain by creating a hot or cool sensation. Other creams contain medications, such as aspirin-like compounds, that are absorbed into your skin. Pain creams work best on joints that are close the surface of your skin, such as your knees and fingers.
  • Canes and walking sticks. Walking devices can make it easier to go about your day without stressing your painful joint. A cane may take weight off your knee or hip as you walk. Gripping and grabbing tools may make it easier to work in the kitchen if you have osteoarthritis in your fingers.

Alternative Medicine

People who aren't helped by medications for osteoarthritis pain sometimes turn to Complementary and Alternative Medicine practices for relief. Unfortunately, despite the range and amount of alternative medicine available, very little research exists to support the claims or their use. Alsoin some cases, the risks of these treatments aren't known.

If you're thinking of trying Complementary and Alternative Medicine therapies for your osteoarthritis pain, discuss these treatments with your doctor first. He or she can help you weigh the benefits and risks and tell you if the treatments will interfere with your current osteoarthritis medications.

Common complementary and alternative treatments that have shown some promise for osteoarthritis include:

  • Acupuncture. During acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into your skin at precise spots. Practitioners believe the needles free or redirect your body's energy in order to relieve pain. Studies of acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis have been mixed. Most studies haven't found a benefit, though some have found some short-term relief of pain. Acupuncture can be safe if you select a reputable practitioner — ask your doctor to suggest someone. Risks include infection, bruising and some pain where needles are inserted into your skin.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin. Studies have been mixed on these nutritional supplements. Some have found benefits for people with osteoarthritis, while others haven't.

Coping and support

Medications and other treatments are key to managing pain and disability, but another major component to treatment is your own attitude. Your ability to cope despite pain and disability caused by osteoarthritis often determines how much of an impact osteoarthritis will have on your everyday life. Talk to your doctor if you're feeling frustrated. He or she may have ideas about how to cope or refer you to someone who can help. In the meantime, try to:

  • Keep a positive attitude. Make a plan with your doctor for managing your arthritis. This will help you feel that you're in charge of your disease, rather than vice versa. Studies show that people who take control of their treatment and actively manage their arthritis experience less pain and function better.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Hypnosis, guided imagery, deep breathing and muscle relaxation can all be used to control pain.
  • Know your limits. Rest when you're tired. Arthritis can make you prone to fatigue and muscle weakness — a deep exhaustion that makes everything you do a great effort. A rest or short nap that doesn't interfere with nighttime sleep may help.
3 April, 2010