National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
How Is Osteoarthritis Treated? continued...
Osteoarthritis patients who are overweight or obese should try
to lose weight. Weight loss can reduce stress on weight-bearing joints, limit
further injury, and increase mobility. A dietitian can help you develop healthy
eating habits. A healthy diet and regular exercise help reduce weight.
Rest and relief from stress on joints
Treatment plans include regularly scheduled rest. Patients must
learn to recognize the body’s signals, and know when to stop or slow down. This
will prevent the pain caused by overexertion. Although pain can make it
difficult to sleep, getting proper sleep is important for managing arthritis
pain. If you have trouble sleeping, you may find that relaxation techniques,
stress reduction, and biofeedback can help, as can timing medications to
provide maximum pain relief through the night.
Some people use canes to take pressure off painful joints. They
may use splints or braces to provide extra support for joints and/or keep them
in proper position during sleep or activity. Splints should be used only for
limited periods of time because joints and muscles need to be exercised to
prevent stiffness and weakness. If you need a splint, an occupational therapist
or a doctor can help you get a properly fitted one.
If joint pain interferes with your ability to sleep or rest,
consult your doctor.
Nondrug pain relief
People with osteoarthritis may find many nondrug ways to
relieve pain. Below are some examples:
Heat and cold: Heat or cold (or a combination
of the two) can be useful for joint pain. Heat can be applied in a number of
different ways – with warm towels, hot packs, or a warm bath or shower – to
increase blood flow and ease pain and stiffness. In some cases, cold packs
(bags of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel), which reduce
inflammation, can relieve pain or numb the sore area. (Check with a doctor or
physical therapist to find out if heat or cold is the best treatment.)
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
(TENS): TENS is a technique that uses a small electronic device to
direct mild electric pulses to nerve endings that lie beneath the skin in the
painful area. TENS may relieve some arthritis pain. It seems to work by
blocking pain messages to the brain and by modifying pain perception.