Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, affecting over 30 million adults in the US. Your body is designed to be a smoothly functioning machine, but due to age, injuries, and other reasons, the joints that enable movement can become damaged, leading to osteoarthritis (OA).
You have a soft cushion of tissue between your joints so the bones don’t rub together. When that tissue, called cartilage, thins or tears, the joint often becomes painful. Swelling and stiffness may come along with the pain. Scientists say that osteoarthritis is more than wear and tear from normal aging: It’s a disease of the joints.
Your body has many joints. OA can occur in any, but physicians see patients most often for arthritis in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, and hands.
Researchers don’t have a cure for OA, but the good news is that you can manage the condition in ways that keep you moving and lessen pain. San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center in San Diego can help you treat and manage your OA so it doesn’t become debilitating. Here are some great tips on OA treatment and management.
Medications and supplements
You likely were taking over-the-counter pain relievers before your OA was diagnosed. Now that you know the cause of your pain, it’s time to move beyond relying on drugs to ease your symptoms. Opioids are dangerous, and doctors only prescribe them in limited numbers in certain cases. NSAIDS, when taken too long, can cause organ damage.
Some patients find that glucosamine and chondroitin, natural substances already found in your body, help arthritis symptoms. You can find these supplements at your drugstore.
Physical therapy helps calm inflammation and reduce pain and stiffness in joints with OA. At your first session, an evaluation, your therapist reviews which activities are problematic for you. She or he develops a program individualized for your needs designed to improve your mobility. You’ll gradually increase the range of motion in your joint so that you can use your hands, sit, stand, bend, and walk better. Studies show that physical therapy can help delay or prevent knee surgery for OA.
Physical therapy uses both passive and active modalities. Passive techniques include ice and heat. Ice helps lessen swelling. Heat therapy improves circulation and enables you to bend the joint more easily. Active methods include exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding the painful joint; over time, as you strengthen the muscles, pain lessens. Flexibility exercises improve range of motion.
If you’re overweight or obese, your doctor explains the effects of excess weight on arthritis. It’s adding flame to the fire. That extra weight is placing more stress on your damaged joint. The less weight, the less damage to your cartilage.
Excess fat cells produce proteins that cause inflammation, making your joint swell and causing more joint damage. Healthy eating habits never hurt, and you’ll have less arthritis pain.
Once your doctor has helped to stabilize your symptoms, he or she recommends that you get regular exercise. You should try to work up to 150 minutes per week. Water aerobics is a great exercise for OA because it’s not weight-bearing, yet you’re strengthening your muscles. Walking and biking are also good exercise options if you have OA.
If you’re having a flare-up, your doctor may suggest a steroid or hyaluronic acid injection. A cortisone shot usually starts calming the inflammation within 48 hours. Your doctor can only give you four cortisone shots in a year. Too much cortisone can damage your joint. You don’t want to rely on this type of injection.
If you can’t take painkillers, you may benefit from a hyaluronic acid injection. Your body produces this acid naturally, but when you have OA, the amount in your joints has decreased. These injections are effective for some people and less effective for others.
Your doctor may suggest a cane, knee brace, or other assistive device. For example, orthotics, prescription shoe inserts, may help you if you have arthritis in your foot, knee, or hip — all are interconnected.
Your doctor and you know when it’s time to discuss surgery. If all other options haven’t helped and your mobility is significantly limited, you can benefit from partial or full joint replacement.
Call San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center or request an appointment through our online portal today. Get help for your osteoarthritis now.