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Treatment For

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. OA occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions joints wear down over time. Although Osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your knees, hands, hips, and spine.

Causes

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints starts to deteriorate gradually. Cartilage is a firm, connective tissue that enables nearly frictionless joint motion. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, your bones will begin to rub on bone, often referred to as bone on bone.

Besides the breakdown of cartilage, Osteoarthritis can affect the entire joint. It will change the bone and cause deterioration of the connective tissue. It may also cause inflammation in the joint lining.

The Symptoms of OA

Osteoarthritis symptoms usually develop slowly and will worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis may include:

 

  • Pain – Affected joints may hurt during or after some activities.
  • Stiffness – Joint stiffness usually occurs with inactivity and improves with movement.
  • Tenderness – Your joints may be tender to the touch or with certain activities.
  • Loss of Mobility – You may not be able to move your joint through a full range of motion.
  • Grating Sensation – You may feel a grating sensation when you use a joint; we call this crepetis.
  • Bone Spurs – These extra bone growths, which can feel like hard bumps, around the joint.
  • Swelling – This can occur around the affected joint.

Treatments

Osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, but there are treatments that can reduce pain and help you move better and live a potentially normal lifestyle.

Medications

  • Acetaminophen – Acetaminophen has been shown to help some people with osteoarthritis who have mild to moderate pain. Remember: Taking more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen can cause liver damage.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, others), taken at the recommended doses, typically relieve osteoarthritis pain. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription. NSAIDs can cause stomach upset, cardiovascular problems, bleeding problems, and liver and kidney damage. NSAIDs as gels, applied to the skin over the affected joint, have fewer side effects and often relieve pain as well.
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta) – Normally used as an antidepressant, this medication is also approved to treat chronic pain, including osteoarthritis pain and nerve pain.

Therapies

  • Physical Therapy – One of the first-line treatments for arthritis. Doctors will often order physical therapy to help relieve pain and regain strength. A physical therapist can show you exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joint, increase flexibility, and reduce pain. Regular exercise that you do on your own, such as swimming or walking, will often be very effective.
  • Occupational Therapy – An Occupational therapist can help you discover ways to do everyday tasks without putting extra stress on your already painful joint. For instance, a thicker writing pen may make writing easier if you have Osteoarthritis in your hands. A taller Toilet could help relieve the pain of standing up after using the toilet if you have knee Osteoarthritis.

Other Treatment Options

  • Cortisone Injections – Injections of corticosteroid medications may relieve pain in your joint. During this procedure, your doctor numbs the area around your joint, then places a needle into the space within your joint and injects medication. The number of cortisone injections you can receive yearly is generally limited to three or four injections because the medication can worsen joint damage over time.
  • Lubrication Injections – Often referred to as Gel injections by patients. These hyaluronic acid injections often offer pain relief by cushioning in your knee, though some research suggests these injections offer no more relief than a placebo. Hyaluronic acid is similar to a component typically found in your joint fluid.
  • Joint Replacement – In joint replacement surgery, your surgeon removes and replaces your damaged joint with a new prosthetic joint. Surgical risks include infections and blood clots. Artificial joints can wear out or come loose and may need to be replaced eventually.