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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Joint Pain Not Inevitable With Age

Creaking knees, hips, and ankles aren't necessarily normal aches and pains that come with age. Your pain might be arthritis. Luckily, medicine has a lot to offer --- from exercise and alternative supplements to medications and joint replacement.

Other Ways to Relieve Pain continued...

Steroid shots. Corticosteroids are yet another option. Shots of steroids -- artificial versions of the body's natural hormones -- into the joint can reduce inflammation, thereby reducing pain, Weiss says. But though injections are fine as a short-term fix, long-term use is usually not recommended because of potential side effects.

Alternative supplements. In recent years, several studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can help relieve pain from osteoarthritis. In addition, research has shown that these supplements, particularly glucosamine, can slow, or even stop, progression of osteoarthritis. Most research has been done on knee osteoarthritis, but experts suspect that other joints would benefit as well.

Derived from crustacean shells, glucosamine supplements are thought to replace missing fluid and promote the growth of cartilage, thereby helping to repair joints, Weiss says. Chondroitin sulfate, often taken in conjunction with glucosamine, may help cartilage from breaking down. Both supplements are safe and effective but are slow-acting, requiring several weeks to months of treatment to get relief.

Joint replacement. If all else fails to relieve your pain and disability, your doctors may recommend surgery in which an arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint called a prosthesis. These artificial joints, fashioned out of metal and plastic, can be as good as the real thing, restoring movement and function.

"Joint replacement is extremely successful, lasting over 20 years for more than 90% of patients," Weiss says. But there is some risk: Some patients develop complications, and a small percentage die, with the elderly at greatest risk. "But new sophisticated software helps doctors to better navigate the area of the joint; we can achieve maximum benefit with minimal risk."

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Reviewed on May 01, 2005

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