Living with osteoarthritis (OA) makes simple tasks difficult and daily life a challenge. Inflammation and pain can affect any of your joints, though the disease commonly affects the hands, knees, and hips. Fortunately, help is available. If you’re suffering from degenerative joint pain, it’s important to consider the following treatment options.
7 Effective Methods for Treating Osteoarthritis
- Pain-Relief Creams
- Exercises and Physical Therapy
- Diet Modifications
- Medications and Painkillers
- Stem Cell Therapy
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects millions of Americans. Some treatment options for osteoarthritis require medical intervention, while others are natural remedies that can help improve mobility and reduce your pain. Here are seven osteoarthritis treatment options available to help you combat this disease.
1. Pain-Relief Creams
Pain relief creams are applied directly to the skin of the area where you’re experiencing joint pain. These creams can occasionally cause side effects, but reactions are much less severe and infrequent compared to oral medication.
As an over-the-counter option, pain-relief creams are easy to get without having to regularly visit the pharmacy and wait on a prescription. There are many options for pain-relief creams to help you manage your osteoarthritis pain.
Arthritis Wonder is a fast-acting osteoarthritis treatment that you can apply at least once a day or as needed for long-term relief. Within five minutes, you can experience joint pain relief, whether that be your hands, hips, knees or back. Arthritis Wonder is the only product that includes wogonin, a highly effective anti-inflammatory agent derived naturally from the Skullcap plant Scutellaria Baicalensis.
Topical NSAIDs and Opioid Creams
Many patients suffering from finger joint or knee osteoarthritis find relief with topical NSAIDs. These topical creams commonly include the drug diclofenac which can be prescribed by your doctor. Diclofenac is a well-known medicine for reducing inflammation, but long-term use is not recommended.
There are also opioid analgesics for severe pain which require a prescription. These types of creams use a narcotic drug to block your brain’s pain receptors. There is a serious risk of addiction to any narcotic drug, and although the drug is not being ingested, patients who use these creams are not supposed to drive or operate machinery.
2. Exercises and Physical Therapy
By strengthening the muscles around the aching joints, you can find relief from your osteoarthritis symptoms. Exercises and physical therapy are a great way to manage your pain without medications or surgery.
There are three main types of exercises for osteoarthritis treatment:
Range of Motion/Flexibility – These exercises help by reducing stiffness in the affected joints. The more mobility you have in these joints, the less stiffness and pain you’ll experience.
Endurance/Aerobic – By building your endurance, you help your body work more effectively and increase your stamina. This makes activities that engage your aching joints more tolerable as they’ll put less overall strain on your body. Generally, you should try and get 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week to help build and keep this endurance.
Strengthening Exercises – The stronger your muscles, the better they can support your joints. By adding strength training exercises to your exercise routines, you can experience lower pain levels from your OA.
To help you target your areas of pain, a physical therapist can work with you on exercises that remedy your osteoarthritis. A trained physical therapist that specializes in arthritis treatment can help you target your hips, knee, finger joints, neck or other painful areas to ensure your time in exercise is well spent.
Another great benefit of exercise is that it can help you lose weight. Excess weight puts added strain and stress on your joints, causing the cartilage to break down faster and accelerate your degenerative joint pain.
3. Diet Modifications
Some foods promote inflammation, while others reduce it. When you modify your diet to eliminate inflammation-inducing foods and increase foods that are antioxidant rich to reduce inflammation, you can find relief from your osteoarthritis symptoms.
This form of osteoarthritis treatment can be accomplished by adding the foods to your diet that reduce inflammation, including:
- Vitamin C (tropical fruits, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, raspberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale)
- Vitamin D (seafood, milk fortified with vitamin D, eggs, orange juice, cereal, tofu, yogurt)
- Beta-carotene (winter squash, cantaloupe, parsley, tomatoes, asparagus, cruciferous vegetables)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (oysters, walnuts, omega-3-fortified eggs, sardines, salmon, herring, anchovies, flax seed)
- Bioflavonoids (onions, kale, leeks, blueberries, cocoa powder, green tea, apricots, apples)
- Spices (ginger and turmeric)
You should avoid the following foods because they increase inflammation:
- Fried food
When your body receives important vitamins and nutrients you will feel much better. Just like with exercise, changes to your diet to healthier foods can also be beneficial by promoting weight loss.
4. Medications and Painkillers
Generally, doctors recommend trying the natural remedies listed above before resorting to medications. While beneficial in reducing pain and improving your overall quality of life, medications treat your symptoms and not the root cause of your pain and discomfort, which makes them less ideal for your long-term health.
Here are some medications and painkillers you can discuss with your doctor:
Start with a small amount. While there are few day-to-day side effects of taking acetaminophen regularly, over time this drug can cause liver damage, especially if you exceed the recommended dosage. While taking this over the counter pain medication, you should avoid heavy alcoholic consumption. Limit alcoholic beverages to no more than two per day because both this drug and alcohol put a strain on your liver.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
NSAIDs are over-the-counter drugs designed to reduce inflammation while also reducing your pain. These include branded drugs you’re likely familiar with, including Aleve, Motrin, and Advil. Like acetaminophen, extended use can lead to side effects including upset stomach, bleeding in the stomach, as well as heart attack and stroke.
These prescription-level NSAIDs are designed to fight inflammation. They are designed to have fewer side effects on your stomach. While these drugs carry less risk of heart attack when used for prolonged periods than traditional NSAIDs, patients who use these do have a higher risk of kidney damage.
When changes to your diet and exercise provide no relief, and oral medications don’t work for you, your doctor can inject medicine directly into your affected joints. This method is more invasive and requires more visits to your doctor. Even with a good health insurance plan, injections may be more expensive than over-the-counter drugs and creams.
Also called cortisone or steroid injections, these injections provide short-term relief and must be administered at regular intervals. Your doctor will inject medicine directly into the affected joint. This is the most common form of injection treatment for osteoarthritis.
Corticosteroid injections are designed to lower inflammation and work almost instantly to provide relief. These injections often need to be administered every couple of months, though problems can arise from long-term use. There are side effects to these shots including joint irritation, nerve damage, infection, and bone thinning. Too many repeated injections can add to the breakdown of your joints, which is the very symptom you’re trying to avoid.
Hyaluronic Acid Injections
Hyaluronic acid injections are highly debated by the arthritis community. While approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), there is still a great deal of controversy surrounding their effectiveness. As an osteoarthritis treatment, hyaluronic acid injections are designed for the hip or knee joints.
They carry a risk of more pain and swelling where injected, which is the opposite desired result. Some patients also experience allergic reactions to the medicine.
6. Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy can mend damaged tissue and help fight off the disease. In some clinical studies, cartilage regeneration has been observed. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis receive the additional benefit of an improved immune system.
Some stem cell therapies require a patient to undergo a procedure where healthy stem cells are removed from the hip bone to be injected into the affected area. This procedure can be highly uncomfortable and takes some recovery time to heal after the procedure.
Stem cell therapy is a new form of osteoarthritis treatment and not widely recognized. Most insurance companies will deny coverage for these claims. This can leave patients with a bill of around $2,000 per treatment, making this a very expensive therapy to undergo. Investigating insurance coverage and cost of treatment before signing up to receive this treatment is highly recommended.
Given that stem cell therapy is still emerging, it is not regulated by the FDA for osteoarthritis treatment, making it a riskier procedure. While there are many clinics surfacing throughout the country, vetting these providers could prove to be difficult.
When all other osteoarthritis treatments fail, your doctor may resort to surgery to treat your osteoarthritis. There are different types of surgery options that your doctor might recommend.
is a procedure that enables your doctor to insert a small camera into your affected joint to have a better view of what is causing your pain. Your doctor can then remove damaged cartilage and bone fragments as well as smooth out rough spots to improve your joint’s ability to function normally.
While this surgery is not extremely invasive, it is also limited in its ability to provide relief for osteoarthritis sufferers as it doesn’t work for all types of arthritis. If your doctor deems that the surgery is right for you, the great news is that the recovery time is short.
There is also the option for arthroplasty which is a total joint replacement surgery. During this procedure, a surgeon removes the part of your bone that houses the arthritis disease and inserts an artificial metal or plastic joint. The procedure provides great relief and improved quality of life for most patients but must be redone when the artificial joint wears out, which is often within 20 years.
Osteotomy is a procedure in which a surgeon cuts the bone near your affected joint and inserts a wedge to realign the affected bone so that it doesn’t rub and cause pain. This surgery treats the cause of the arthritis pain instead of the symptoms but does require extensive healing and a longer stay in the hospital.
A final surgery option to treat your osteoarthritis is a joint fusion. This is when a surgeon joins two or more bones together using pins or screws to create one continuous joint. This surgery provides lifetime relief but carries with it a reduction in mobility and flexibility given that it is fusing multiple joints into one. Additionally, it can mean more pressure and stress on other joints as your body adapts to accommodate the change.
Many Ways to Treat Osteoarthritis
There are many treatment options available for osteoarthritis. Less invasive treatments include diet and exercise, oral medications, painkillers, and use of a topical cream like Arthritis Wonder. Advanced treatments include corticosteroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections, stem cell therapy, and even surgery.
Do all you can to learn more about osteoarthritis so you can make informed decisions about your available options. Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan that fits your needs. You don’t have to suffer through daily pain. Test out these different remedies – both natural and medicinal – to find relief and improve your quality of life