Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting over 30 million people. This occurs when the cartilage in our joint breaks down. Without this cartilage the bones rub together resulting in pain and decreased mobility. The amount of pain will vary with each individual. Some people that have an advanced case of the disease will experience little to no pain while others that have a more mild case experience severe pain.
Any treatment plan must be tailored to the individual. A plan that works well for one person will not necessarily work well for another, even if the same joint is affected. The purpose of any treatment plan is threefold: first to relieve pain, secondly to increase the mobility of the joint and lastly to minimize any further joint damage.
Weight is one of the risk factors for osteoarthritis. If you are overweight this puts added stress on weight bearing joints such as hips and knees. If you are overweight at an early age this will increase your chance of contracting the disease later in life. It has been shown that if you have osteoarthritis even a small reduction in weight can significantly reduce the pain associated with it.
Exercise can increase the mobility of the joint and strengthen the muscle around it preventing further damage. This is why your doctor may want you on a regular exercise program. Water exercise has been used successfully in people with arthritis of the hip or knee. These people also should avoid activities such as running or jogging that will put added pressure on those joints. Treatment usually involves a combination of stretching, isometric and aerobic exercises, each provides a different benefit. You should always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Although only a temporary solution, treatment with hot or cold packs can relieve pain, swelling and stiffness. Some cases will benefit more from heat treatments while other respond better to cold. It is dependant on the individual situation.
There is a wide variety of pain medications available. Some are sold over the counter while others will require a prescription from your doctor. People that experience unexpected severe pain will be better served by these medications, while for people with chronic pains other treatments may be in order. You need to remember that there are side affects to all medications. Some patients have reported positive results with a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin which is a more natural remedy. This has been shown to assist in the rebuilding of cartilage over time.
Stress can amplify the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Prolonged stress depletes our bodies of needed vitamins and nutrients. There are a number of things we can do to relieve the stress of everyday life. Try techniques such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises and see what works best for you.
Remember that treatment of this disease is a matter of trial and error to see what works best in your particular situation. Explore these treatment methods with the advice of your doctor. In some cases where none of these treatments are successful he or she may suggest injections or surgery.