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What are the Different Types of Treatment of Osteoarthritis?

By Elva K.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition with symptoms that include painful joints, stiff joints, locking joints, and joint swelling. There can also be cartilage loss and immune system problems. As the condition worsens, patients feel increasing pain if they walk or stand up. There are treatments that can reduce the amount of pain and enable better movement of the joints. In addition to the often-suggested rest, ice, and heat treatments that are recommended for the treatment of osteoarthritis, there are other traditional methods that are implemented for the treatment of osteoarthritis as well.

As excess weight increases the amount of stress on the joints, weight loss is often suggested as a treatment of osteoarthritis. In fact, losing small amounts of weight, such as a pound or two per week, can reduce pain. Also, losing weight can also reduce pressure on the joints significantly.

For the medication treatment of osteoarthritis, there are anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, pain relievers such as Tramadol or acetaminophen, and prescription pills like codeine or propoxyphene. Acetaminophen does not reduce swelling; however, it reduces pain. Ibuprofen can result in an upset stomach; however, it does reduce pain and swelling. Tramadol can cause nausea or constipation and it does not reduce swelling; however, it does reduce pain. Codeine or propxyphene are effective pain relievers but they can also result in drug dependence. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that products containing propoxyphene be voluntarily withdrawn from the market due to concerns about risks to the heart.

Cortisone shots are an osteoarthritis treatment option. Typically, the physician will numb the area surrounding the joint before injecting the cortisone. Of note, too many injections of cortisone will result in joint damage; however, if there are not excessive numbers of injections, cortisone is an effective pain reliever for osteoarthritis.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy provide relief from osteoarthritis. For instance, physical therapists are able to create exercises to help make the muscles near the joints stronger. This can increase the joints' movement capacity and will reduce pain in cases of osteoarthritis. Occupational therapists can teach ways to do things without putting added pressure or stress on the joints. For example, it could mean using tools with larger grips or sitting down in the shower as opposed to standing up.

Joint replacement or arthroplasty surgery is an osteoarthritis treatment option. In this type of surgery, the physician removes a painful joint area and replaces it with a prosthesis. The hip joint or the knee joint are the joints most often replaced in this type of surgery; however, sometimes there could be replacement of elbow, ankle, shoulder, or even finger joints. Prostheses can last for many years; however, they may have to be eventually replaced.

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