OA cannot be cured. It will most likely get worse over time. However, your OA symptoms can be controlled.
You can have surgery, but other treatments can improve your pain and make your life much better. Although these treatments cannot make the arthritis go away, they can often delay surgery.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, which you can buy without a prescription, can help with OA symptoms. Most doctors recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) first, because it has fewer side effects than other drugs. If your pain continues, your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Types of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
Other medications or supplements that you may use include:
- Corticosteroids injected right into the joint to reduce swelling and pain
- Over-the-counter remedies such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
- Capsaicin (Zostrix) skin cream to relieve pain
- Artificial joint fluid (Synvisc, Hyalgan) can be injected into the knee to relieve pain for 3 - 6 months
Staying active and getting exercise helps maintain joint and overall movement. Ask your health care provider to recommend an appropriate home exercise routine. Water exercises, such as swimming, are especially helpful.
Other lifestyle recommendations include:
- Applying heat and cold
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Getting rest
- Losing weight if you are overweight
- Protecting the joints
As the pain from your OA becomes worse, keeping up with everyday activities may become more difficult or painful.
- Sometimes making changes around the home will take some stress off your joints, and relieve some of the pain.
- If your work is causing stress in certain joints, you may need to adjust your work area or change work tasks.
Physical therapy can help improve muscle strength and the motion of stiff joints, as well as your sense of balance. Therapists have many techniques for treating OA. If therapy does not make you feel better after 6 - 8 weeks, then it likely will not work at all.
Massage therapy may also help provide short-term pain relief. Make sure you work with an experienced massage therapist who understands how to work with sensitive joint areas.
Splints and braces can sometimes support weakened joints. Some prevent the joint from moving; others allow some movement. You should use a brace only when your doctor or therapist recommends one. Using a brace the wrong way can cause joint damage, stiffness, and pain.
Acupuncture is a treatment based on Chinese medicine. How it works is not entirely clear. Some studies have found that acupuncture may provide short-term pain relief for people with OA.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe, pronounced "Sammy") is a man-made form of a natural byproduct of the amino acid methionine. It has been marketed as a remedy for arthritis, but scientific evidence to support these claims is lacking.
Severe cases of OA might need surgery to replace or repair damaged joints. Surgical options include: