What Is the Best Treatment for Osteoarthritis?

Reviewed on 8/14/2020

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

Treatment for Osteoarthritis (OA) varies from person to person, and can include exercise, medication, surgery, and supplements.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis (OA) varies from person to person, and can include exercise, medication, surgery, and supplements.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is diagnosed primarily on X-Ray. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be done later to check for the extent of bone erosion and other injuries to the joint structure. For diagnosing OA, doctors ask for your medical history and look for the signs and symptoms. This is generally done by rheumatologists and orthopedic surgeons. 

How is osteoarthritis different from rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can affect all the joints of your limbs—hands, fingers, elbows, knees, and hips. Meanwhile, osteoarthritis (OA) frequently affects your knees, hip, and spine

RA always affects multiple joints on both sides of the body, whereas OA may only affect one particular joint or area of the body. 

Most often, RA is frequently accompanied by signs such as joint swelling, tenderness, and fever. RA may also involve the lungs, eyes, and other organs. These signs are usually not seen in OA.

What is the best treatment for osteoarthritis?

Once osteoarthritis (OA) starts developing, you can only slow down the progression of the disease and not reverse it. The best treatment for OA varies from person to person. Most often, a combination of various therapies gives the best results. These therapies include the following:

Physical measures 

  • Excess weight puts pressure on your knee joints, hips, and lower back. Weight loss can reduce your chances of disability due to OA. 
  • Exercise can improve your muscle strength and reduce joint pain and stiffness. 
  • Supportive devices, such as a walking cane, can help you walk with ease. 
  • Heating pads/bags or cold therapy can help relieve OA symptoms temporarily.
  • Alternative/complementary therapies such as hot fomentation (spa), massage, acupressure, and acupuncture can help relieve pain for a short time. 

Drug therapy 

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen can help relieve the pain and swelling in patients with OA. These can be in the form of topical gels, oral pills, or injections. 
  • Some medications work to change how your body responds to pain. Popular options include prescription opioids containing oxycodone or hydrocodone. Opioids can be addictive.
  • Cymbalta (Duloxetine) is also one of the effective drugs for pain associated with chronic OA. 
  • Narcotics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone are prescribed if you have extreme joint pain or fail to respond to NSAIDs and analgesics.
  • Sometimes, a steroid drug or lubricant, such as hyaluronic acid, is injected into the painful joints. These shots may help delay the need for knee replacement surgery by a few years in some patients with OA.

Surgery 

  • Surgical treatment becomes an option for severe cases that do not get any relief from the aforementioned treatments. This can be in the form of arthroscopy or knee replacement surgery.
  • Arthroscopy helps in repairing the joint damage by inserting a long camera like a tube in your knee.
  • Knee replacement surgery is mostly advised in severely damaged knee joints, particularly if you are obese.

Supplements 

What happens if osteoarthritis is left untreated?

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knees or hips can lead to the following complications:

  • Deformities such as a bow-legged appearance due to knee joint involvement
  • Chronic pain due to joint erosion affecting the quality of life
  • Pinched nerves causing pain and muscle weakness causing restricted movements
  • Stress fractures over weakened bones
  • Poor quality of life

QUESTION

What joints are most often affected by osteoarthritis? See Answer

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

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