What Are the Best Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis?

Pain, stiffness, and swelling can happen to anyone – but if you’re dealing with these aches and struggling with limited mobility every day, you may be living with osteoarthritis. A progressive, chronic disease that can worsen over time, osteoarthritis can become crippling for anyone who’s diagnosed.

Fortunately, those living with osteoarthritis don’t have to suffer in pain. There are treatment options for the symptoms of this chronic condition, and these treatment options can greatly alleviate your aches and pains.

If you’re ready to find relief from the pain caused by osteoarthritis, the key is searching for treatments that help you manage the disease, improve your mobility and flexibility, and make everyday life easier. The following are the top treatments to consider if you’re living with osteoarthritis.

Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Relief Medications

One of the first steps in treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis is dealing with the pain the condition causes. Medication is the best treatment option for doing exactly that.

Osteoarthritis medications have two purposes. They either treat the pain, offering sufferers relief and enabling them to move more easily, or target inflammation, which is the source of osteoarthritis pain. These medications can be taken orally as pills or liquid medicine, applied topically as creams or lotions, or be injected if needed.

According to the Arthritis Foundation and the Mayo Clinic, the following types of medications are the most effective for treating osteoarthritis:

  • Analgesics: These medications are pain relievers. They can be prescribed or purchased over-the-counter, and they commonly contain acetaminophen or opioids.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): A very commonly used medication, NSAIDs both reduce inflammation and the pain caused by inflammation. NSAIDs are readily available at local drugstores – aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and other common pain relievers can be purchased or prescribed, if you need a stronger dose.
  • Duloxetine: This medication is most commonly used as an antidepressant, duloxetine is also approved to treat chronic pain. It’s effective for those with osteoarthritis, soothing the painful symptoms that occur.

Physical Therapy

While medication can work wonders when it comes to pain relief for osteoarthritis, there’s an easy and natural way to treat the symptoms of this condition. All you need to do is learn how to strengthen your muscles, and you’ll find everyday movement and tasks easier – and physical therapy can teach you exactly that.

Physical therapy is recommended by many osteoarthritis experts, including the Mayo Clinic. During physical therapy sessions, you’ll be guided by a physical therapist who creates an individualized exercise program and plan based on your capabilities and your symptoms. You’ll strengthen your muscles and focus on your joints in particular, which over time will increase your range of motion and cut down on the regular pain you experience.

During physical therapy, your therapist may include TENS or NMES, two types of stimulation that can alleviate joint pain. As WebMD notes, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) uses electrodes to send impulses along your nerves, stimulating those nerves to reduce pain, while NMES (neuromuscular electrical stimulation) uses electrodes to stimulate muscle tissue around the joints to reduce pain. Both of these pain-free physical therapy options can bring relief.

Exercise

While it might feel painful to move, regular movement is an important treatment for osteoarthritis. Moving will keep your joints lubricated, your weight at a healthy number, and your osteoarthritis under control.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, moving regularly is one of the most beneficial ways to manage osteoarthritis symptoms. Movement – even in small, simple doses like walking – can reduce your pain and build strength. The stronger you make your joints, the less pain you’re likely to feel.

Additionally, exercising in any way will help you stick to a healthy weight. While being healthy is important for everyone, it’s particularly important for osteoarthritis sufferers. The more you weigh, the more weight and pressure is put on your joints – and excess weight could exacerbate your symptoms, leading to more pain and worsening joint damage. If you stay active, moving and exercising when you can, you’ll keep your joint damage as limited as possible.

Cortisone or Lubricating Injections

If your osteoarthritis symptoms aren’t responsive to medications, physical therapy, exercise, or other forms of treatment, there’s one last option to turn to: injections. Though injections are often the last treatment option before surgery, these stronger-dose medications can offer relief that regular medication cannot, and they can offer longer periods of relief for those suffering from serious osteoarthritis symptoms and pain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two primary injections osteoarthritis sufferers can try:

  • Cortisone or Corticosteroid injections: These injections directly place pain-relieving medication within your joint. Patients can experience pain relief for months with these injections. You can only have a certain number of cortisone or corticosteroid injections in total, as these can cause joint damage if overused.
  • Viscosupplementation (lubrication) injections: These injections, which are composed of hyaluronic acid, help to relieve pain by adding cushioning to the joint. It essentially increases your joint fluid, making it easier to move without inflammation.

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, you know what it’s like to live with the painful symptoms of this chronic condition. But that doesn’t mean you need to suffer every day. There are options to treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis – and you can take advantage of them. You just need to do make sure you do your research, know what your treatment options are, and find the one that works best for your health and symptoms.

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