Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Osteoarthritis Health Center

Font Size

Keep Your Joints Healthy Every Day

By
WebMD Feature

Living with osteoarthritis is a long-term proposition. It’s your job to stay active and keep your joints healthy so that you can do the things you want and need to do, as independently as you can, for as long as you can.

“There’s nothing that I as a physician can do to slow the progression of osteoarthritis,” says Elinor Mody, MD, medical director of the Gretchen S. and Edward A. Fish Center for Women’s Health and co-director of the Center for Skin and Related Musculoskeletal Disease at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Recommended Related to Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Hyaluronic Acid Joint Injections

In the U.S., almost 21 million adults are living with osteoarthritis. And one of the body's critical joints, the knee, is the most frequently affected. More than 30% of people over 50 have knee osteoarthritis. So do a whopping 80% of those over 65. In fact, about 100,000 people in the U.S. can't get from their bed to the bathroom because of osteoarthritis of the knee. Getting hyaluronic acid joint injections is one treatment that may ease the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis. Hyaluronic acid...

Read the Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Hyaluronic Acid Joint Injections article > >

“And in the vast majority of cases, there’s nothing the patient can do that would make the disease get worse faster.”

So much of the time, you can manage your osteoarthritis on your own. But sometimes, you’ll need the guidance of a doctor or physical therapist to cope with pain, handle obstacles, and make sure you’re steering in the right direction. When should you seek help?

1. When you’re beginning an exercise program.

“The worst thing someone with osteoarthritis can do is nothing,” says Mody. “Exercise is particularly important for people with osteoarthritis. Muscle strengthening takes strain off the joints, and core strengthening has been shown to be very important in taking strain off the knee, preventing injury.”

You know how to walk, of course, and the trainer at the gym can show you how to use weight machines. But exercising when you have arthritis is a bit more complicated than it is for a healthy 25-year-old. To avoid injury and make the most of your exercise program, consult a doctor or physical therapist when you begin, to get a customized regimen that’s designed for your own individual needs and limitations.

2. When pain gets in the way.

Are you avoiding your weekly golf game or working in your beloved garden because it hurts too much to walk or bend? Then it’s time to see your doctor.

“When you’re having enough pain that it’s preventing you from doing what you need or want to do, it’s time to intervene,” says Mody. “Sometimes we can relieve the pain with cortisone or other medications, such as drugs that mimic the effect of chondroitin on cartilage." 

Other ways to alleviate pain include:

  • Using orthotics, custom-made shoe inserts that help protect knees and hips by acting as shock absorbers when walking
  • Knee bracing to help to stabilize the knee joint
  • Applying ice to the affected joint may help improve swelling, pain, and range of motion
  • Topical analgesics to relieve painful joints
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medications

In other cases, explains Mody, it may be time to talk about joint replacement surgery. “It’s important not to wait too long when that becomes necessary, because that can lead to muscle atrophy and joint contracture, and you may never really get back what you lost.”

Today on WebMD

elderly hands
Even with arthritis pain.
woman exercising
Here are 7 easy tips.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
Keep Joints Healthy
SLIDESHOW
Chronic Pain Healthcheck
HEALTH CHECK
 
close up of man with gut
Article
man knee support
Article
 
woman with cold compress
QUIZ
Man doing tai chi
Article
 
hand gripping green rubber ball
Slideshow
person walking with assistance
Slideshow