Depending on the severity of your symptoms and your physical health, the treatment of osteoarthritis may differ. The first steps are exercising and in case of obesity, weight loss. For some patients, these two steps are the only necessary ones and will give the needed pain relief. In more severe cases medication or even surgery may be necessary.
Pain relief for arthritis
Exercising: The optimum exercise programme will aim at strengthening the muscles and improve general fitness. Strengthening the muscles will also strengthen the joints and keep you mobile. It is important to get a programme from someone who knows about osteoarthritis, either your GP or a physiotherapist since some exercises can damage your joints.
Weight loss: The joints get more stressed if they are carrying a lot of weight so weight loss will help reduce pain, in case of obesity or overweight. Your diet may also influence your symptoms, since some foods cause inflammation. Eating these foods is like pouring gasoline on the fire ! Try and eat anti-inflammatory foods instead.
Painkillers: If your symptoms are more severe, your GP may recommend pain killers such as paracetamol or NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). NSAID's are a stronger kind of painkiller, which reduce inflammation. They come as pills and as creams, so you can do a more local treatment for the joint affected. If these don't relieve your pain, your GP may give you a prescription for capsaicin cream, which blocks the nerves that send pain messages.
Injections: In case pain killers are not relieving the pain efficiently enough, you can get intra-articular injections of corticosteroid directly into the joint affected. These reduce both swelling and pain.
Surgery: A last resort is surgery. Osteoarthritis is rarely so severe that it is necessary. Surgery can significantly improve your mobility and quality of life, but it is not guaranteed that it can relieve all of your symptoms. Surgery cannot cure osteoarthritis. There are different kinds of surgery :
- Arthroplasty ; The joint replacement. Most commonly used for knee and hip replacements. Your whole joint will be replaced with a prosthesis and can last up to 20 years.
- Arthrodesis ; Fusing of the joint in a permanent position. This means that you will no longer be able to move your joint, but it will be stronger and hence cause less pain.
- Osteotomy ; If you are too young for a hip or knee replacement, you may get an osteotomy. This surgery aims at realigning the knee by either adding or removing a small piece of bone. The realignment will take the stress away from the affected area.