Currently, osteoarthritis affects more than 32.5 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is among the major causes of disability in older adults. It is also a significant factor in the loss of independence among senior citizens. The condition commonly affects the weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, but can also affect the back and hands. Osteoarthritis treatment includes physical therapy, weight loss if needed, anti-inflammatory medication, and surgery.
When Should You Seek Osteoarthritis Treatment?
The signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis may mimic other conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Besides pain and stiffness, people with osteoarthritis can have swelling or redness in their joints.
The leading indicator you need urgent osteoarthritis treatment is pain. The disease begins when the cartilage (a tough but flexible tissue) that cushions your joints begins to wear down at an alarming rate, causing the bones in the affected joints to rub together and damage nearby tissues. As a result, you experience severe joint pain.
Other signs to watch include:
- Sore joints after an activity
- Stiffness after prolonged inactivity
- Joint deformity
- Bone spurs around the joint
- Hard lumps of tissue under the skin near joints
- Parts of joints stick out further than normal
- You hear a cracking or popping sound in affected joints
What Does Osteoarthritis Treatment Entail?
Initial treatment usually focuses on relieving pain, improving joint mobility, and maintaining muscle strength. Inflammation can also be reduced by using anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, these medications may cause side effects like irritation of the stomach lining or liver damage.
The most common treatments for osteoarthritis are physical therapy, weight loss, exercise, injections to reduce pain and joint stiffness, and joint replacement surgery for severe cases.
Joint replacement surgery usually consists of replacing the affected joint with an artificial one. Different kinds of implants are used depending on the joint affected, such as the shoulder, knee, or hip. Doctors often suggest surgery when other therapies have been unable to control the pain.
In some cases, osteoarthritis is treated with a steroid injection. Injecting a steroid directly into the affected joint significantly reduces inflammation. This treatment can relieve pain and restore mobility of the joint. However, the injection does not treat the underlying condition that caused the osteoarthritis.
The Bottom Line
Osteoarthritis is a common condition in the United States that causes pain and stiffness in the joints. OA can affect your hands, feet, neck, back, or any other joint in your body. When you have this condition, everyday actions, such as walking up the stairs or playing with your children, might become difficult to perform. The good news is that there are many types of osteoarthritis treatments that can help manage the pain so you can perform these daily activities more efficiently.
For more information on osteoarthritis, contact a doctor near you.