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Arthritis Treatment Options

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Surgery

If joint pain or damage is so severe that medication isn't working, your doctor may talk to you about having surgery to replace the joint or improve its alignment.

Arthroscopy

To look inside your joint, the surgeon makes a very small incision and inserts a thin, lighted tube and small surgical instruments. Through this small cut, the doctor can remove floating pieces of bone or cartilage or other debris from the joint, smooth out rough surfaces, or remove swollen tissues.

Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty)

Arthritis can take its toll on your joints, and over time you may have no choice but to replace a worn out hip or knee joint with a man-made plastic or metal version. If osteoarthritis is only in one part of the knee joint, you can have a partial knee or hip replacement, a less invasive procedure that will still help improve function.

Joint fusion

When joint replacement fails, the surgeon can try another technique that removes a joint completely from the ends of the two bones that connect it. The bones are then held together with screws, pins, or plates. Over time, the bones should fuse into one piece.

Osteotomy

If you're still young and active and you've got knee or hip osteoarthritis, you may be able to have an osteotomy, or joint-preserving surgery. By cutting and removing a section of the bone, this procedure improves joint alignment and stability, and it could help you delay joint replacement surgery for several years.

Alternative Remedies for Osteoarthritis

A few alternative treatments have been studied for arthritis relief, but before you try any of these therapies, talk to your doctor and make sure it won't have side effects or interact with other treatments you're using.

Acupuncture is a popular alternative arthritis treatment, and some evidence of benefit has been suggestive but not conclusive in some patients. 

The dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin have also been touted for osteoarthritis relief, although the evidence about their effectiveness is mixed. While some studies haven't found much of a benefit, others suggest glucosamine and chondroitin may help reduce pain in some patients with mild OA. 

Getting Help with Your Arthritis

Don't suffer from arthritis pain alone. Get help from your doctor, an occupational therapist, and/or a physical therapist to learn coping strategies and ways to relieve your discomfort.

  • Your doctor is your main arthritis advocate. Keep in regular contact with your doctor to make sure your medication is working for you, and that you are taking advantage of every possible treatment option.
  • An occupational therapist can help you design your life to be as pain-free as possible. This may include modifying your home to make it easier to get around and recommending gadgets to help you open jars, tie shoelaces, and do other everyday tasks.
  • A physical therapist can teach you exercises to improve the flexibility in your joints and show you how to use walking aids such as a cane, walker, brace, or special shoes.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 24, 2013
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