The main goal for arthritis treatment is the reduction of pain and stiffness. Weight loss and exercise is usually recommended first for arthritis treatment. If exercise and weight loss does not effectively reduce the symptoms of arthritis, medication is usually recommended next. For severe and disabling arthritis the best option would be surgery.
If you are overweight, you are probably putting excess pressure on your joints and it could increase your risk of having osteoarthritis. A person already suffering from osteoarthritis and also overweight at the same time would have an accelerated rate of joint wear and tear, this condition would worsen the symptoms of arthritis. Losing weight would help in relieving the strain on your joints and also reduce the wear and tear on the tissues inside the joint. You can maintain a healthy weight by eating less and exercising more often. A healthy diet consisting of foods that are low in fat and high in fiber should be the bulk of your diet.
Regular exercise is very effective in relieving the pain and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis. Exercise could also help in the slow progression of this disease. Maintenance of healthy weight can be achieved easily by exercising regularly. Exercise makes the muscle that supports the joints stronger and keeps the joints protected from further damage. Exercise also make your joints more flexible and enable you to move without pain. Recommended exercises for people suffering from arthritis includes a combination of stretching, mild muscle strength training and low impact aerobics exercise. Example: ( weight lifting, swimming, walking and cycling. ). Your doctor can suggest which exercise best suits your need.
Heat and Cold:
Applying hot and cold compress had been in use for a very long time in relieving the pain, stiffness and swelling from osteoarthritis. For some persons, applying heat works for them while others require cold compress. Apply heat or cold to affected areas for a maximum application time of 20 minutes. Wait for the skin temperature to return to normal before reapplying the hot or cold compress. Generally, heat is used to relax the muscles and a hot shower in the morning works well for most people with arthritis. Application of cold compress near a joint reduces pain by numbing that area. You can use ice or reusable cold packs. Do not apply ice directly on the skin because it can cause blistering.
When weight loss and exercise is not effective in reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis, the doctor may recommend medications. These medications are used to reduce the pain and tenderness of the joints. Topical pain relievers have lesser side effects compared to oral medications. Some of these topical medication creams contain salicylates and capsaicin. Topical creams need to applied for at least 3 to 4 times daily and they should be used regularly.
Analgesics – the typical analgesic medication that is prescribed by doctors is acetaminophen. Acetaminophen does not cause stomach irritation unlike aspirin. It can be used by older people who have suffered ulcers or have bleeding problems.
NSAIDs – this medication can relieve pain and they can also reduce inflammation as well. Examples of NSAIDs are the following aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation when used for several months or longer.
Corticosteroids – these are artificial or man-made compounds related to a naturally occurring hormone on the body known as cortisone. Corticosteroids reduce pain and inflammation. They can be injected directly to the affected joint. Corticosteroids can only be given for only a few times a year since they can cause damage to bones and cartilage.
This procedure is only done in severe and disabling cases of arthritis in which other treatments have failed. Most people with osteoarthritis would never need surgery but if your doctor recommends that you need surgery it would be a good idea to get a second opinion from another doctor.
Joint Replacement – today we have artificial devices that can replace almost any joint in the body. Joint replacement is usually done in repairing the joints of the hips and knees but it can also be used to repair the joints of the ankles, fingers, wrists and toes. A good and successful joint replacement would relieve joint pain and it can restore most of the movement of the joint. The recovery time from joint replacement is from 3 to 6 months.
Arthrodesis – this procedure immobilizes a joint and it is done by inserting metal or plastic screws to hold the joint in place. Arthrodesis is only done when the pain from osteoarthritis is very severe that immobilizing the joint offers an improvement. Arthrodesis is usually done on smaller joints like the joints of the toes and fingers.
Osteotomy – bone removal or bone cutting is not frequently performed in people with severe osteoarthritis. This technique is performed on a joint wich is unevenly damaged by arthritis. Uneven damage on the joint can put higher stress on the cartilage and would eventually cause further damage. The surgeon would remove a small part of bone near the affected joint area, this procedure realigns the bone and makes the contact between the healthy areas of the cartilage in the joint much better. Osteotomy is ideal for younger people with arthritis since it can delay the use of joint replacement surgery for several years.
Arthroscopy – is a procedure used for diagnosing and sometimes for repairing joints. Arthroscopy is often performed on the joints of the knees and shoulders. The doctor performing arthroscopy would use a long viewing tube with a tiny video camera known as the arthroscope. The arthroscope is inserted via a small incision in the skin over the affected joint. With this device, the doctor can inspect any tissue damage and can make the necessary repairs. He can also use then tube to remove damaged areas of the cartilage or dislodged cartilage particles that are causing irritation.
Keystone E, Choy EH, Kalden J et al. CDP870, a novel, pegylated, humanized TNF-A inhibitor is effective in treating the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). American College of Rheumatology, 64th Annual Scientific Meeting. Abstract. San Francisco, CA. November/11/2001.
Bathon JM, Martin RW, Fleischmann RM, et al. A comparison of etanercept and methotrexate in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis. N Engl J Med. 2000;343:1586-1593.
Markenson JA. Worldwide trends in the socioeconomic impact and long-term prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1991;21:4-12.
Allaire SH, Prashker MJ, Meenan RF. The costs of rheumatoid arthritis. Pharmacoeconomics. 1994;6:513-522.