Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative disease that affects the joints. Though it can attack any joint in the body, it most commonly affects the spine, hands, hips and knees. Osteoarthritis worsens over time and there is no cure. However, with the proper treatment, you can remain active and pain-free. Though medication and surgery are options, your doctor will recommend other avenues first based on the severity of your arthritis.
Treatment Option for Mild Osteoarthritis
Though mild osteoarthritis may be a nuisance, it probably won't disrupt your life. Your doctor will recommend that you rest any joint that is experiencing pain, partake in gentle exercise like biking or swimming to strengthen the muscles around the joint and perhaps lose some weight to take some strain off the affected joint. For pain management, icing the joint or applying a hot compress can help. Other options include the use of over-the-counter pain cream or using braces to stabilize the joints in the legs or arms.
Treatment Options for Moderate Osteoarthritis
In addition to the treatment steps for mild osteoarthritis, you may have to introduce medication to control pain associated with moderate osteoarthritis. Acetaminophen helps with the pain, but does not cut down inflammation. Limit your doses of acetaminophen because too much can damage your liver. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen reduce both pain and inflammation. Unfortunately, overuse will result in side effects like gastric issues and damage to your organs. Tramadol, a prescription analgesic, is generally better tolerated than NSAIDs but can cause constipation and nausea. It is usually used for short-term flares in combination with acetaminophen.
Treatment Options for Severe Osteoarthritis
When other therapies do not work, your doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers such as codeine and propoxyphene. One risk to be aware of is dependence to those pills. Injecting corticosteroid medications may also help relieve pain in the affected joint. Too many injections can cause damage to the joints, so your doctor will limit how many you can get in a year. Injections of hyaluronic acid derivatives provides cushioning to the knee and can reduce pain there. In the most severe situations, your doctor may recommend surgery such as joint replacement, bone fusion or cleaning the joint.