What is the Best Treatment for Osteoarthritis? | Ivy Rehab
Treatment for osteoarthritis

What is the Best Treatment for Osteoarthritis?

If you’re experiencing pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the joints you may be wondering if it’s just a minor issue that will resolve on its own, or if it could be the onset of osteoarthritis. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage around the ends of your bones breaks down and eventually wears away over time. As the condition becomes more severe, all of the cartilage may wear away, leaving you with bare bones that rub against each other. Osteoarthritis can damage any joint, but it is most likely to affect your hands, knees, hips, feet, and spine.

While the damage to the joints cannot be reversed, the good news is that osteoarthritis symptoms can be managed in most cases. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and introducing some natural treatments like physical therapy and an exercise routine could slow the progression of the disease, reduce your osteoarthritis pain levels, and promote a healthy function of the affected joint.

Who is affected by osteoarthritis?

People of any age can develop osteoarthritis, but the risk is significantly higher the older we get. Many over the age of 60 have some form of osteoarthritis, but the severity of their condition varies greatly. In older adults, women are more likely than men to get the disease. When younger adults develop symptoms it’s typically due to overuse or a joint injury. If you’re aware of the signs, there are many ways on how to prevent arthritis before your body becomes affected. 

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Symptoms can vary, depending on the situation, but there are few common clues that point to early signs of osteoarthritis in a patient.

  • Pain – The affected joints may be painful during or after certain movements. People with osteoarthritis in their hands often experience sharp pains when trying to do activities with their hands.
  • Tenderness – When you apply light pressure to the affected area you may experience some tenderness.
  • Stiffness – Joint stiffness is normal first thing in the morning or when you’ve been sitting all day, but joint stiffness that lasts longer than an hour may be an early sign of osteoarthritis.
  • Instability – The joint may become unstable or give out.
  • Swelling – When the tissues around the joint become inflamed it may cause some swelling.
  • Clicking & cracking – Cartilage is designed to help your joints move smoothly but when that cartilage wears down, the bones rub together, sometimes making a cracking or clicking sound.
  • Reduced range of motion – People that are in earlier stages of osteoarthritis may notice that it’s not as easy to move as it once was. When our joints become stiff and painful it can be difficult to move as we lose flexibility and range of motion.

Over time, as your osteoarthritis becomes more advanced, the pain, swelling, and inflammation will become more intense. If you can speak to your healthcare provider sooner than later, you can begin treating your symptoms and possibly slow the progression of the disease.

What is the best treatment for osteoarthritis?

Severe osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, but treatments are available to reduce your chronic pain and help you move more freely. Sometimes surgical treatment and medications are necessary, but we always like to evaluate natural remedies first, to see if they would benefit the patient. Some common forms of natural treatments for severe osteoarthritis include:

  • Physical therapy – A physical therapist can teach you exercises specifically designed to strengthen the muscles around your joint, increase your flexibility and range of motion, and reduce osteoarthritis pain levels. In addition to discussing exercises and ways to modify daily activities, your osteoarthritis treatment plans may include manual therapy to help you improve movement around the affected joint.
  • Occupational therapy – Osteoarthritis can make simple daily tasks nearly impossible to achieve. An occupational therapist can teach you ways to do those tasks without putting additional stress on your joints. They’re experts at looking at your home environments and modifying things to make your life easier. We may also recommend some assistive devices that are designed to help with the tasks that difficult for you to do.
  • Exercise – Low-impact exercise can keep you moving and strengthen the muscles around your joint, making the joint more stable. Walking, cycling, swimming, or water aerobics are excellent options. Of course, if you ever experience pain while doing these activities that could be a sign that you’re overdoing it and you should stop and talk to your physical therapist about an exercise program that would be ideal for you. If you’re not currently active you should also speak to your physical therapist about developing a plan to help you ease into things so you can avoid injury.
  • Weight loss – There is a reason osteoarthritis affects weight bearing joints. Extra weight puts added stress on your joints, especially your knees and your hips. If you are overweight, reducing your weight by just 5-10% can reduce that stress. Your physical therapist can design a program just for you, to help with your weight loss journey.
  • Diet – Many people that suffer from osteoarthritis also have diabetes. High glucose levels can stiffen your cartilage, making it more likely to break down. Diabetes can also cause inflammation, which weakens cartilage and affects the joints. Try to consume a balanced diet that contains fatty fish, dark leafy greens, nuts, and berries. Avoid sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates.

Rehabilitation physical therapy can be a safe and effective osteoarthritis treatment. If you would like to discuss additional ways to achieve joint pain relief, give us a call or request an appointment. We welcome the opportunity to talk further about your condition.

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