Osteoarthritis Treatment Options
Your doctor may recommend the use of antidepressants to help treat chronic pain whether you have depression or not. In 2010, the FDA approved the antidepressant duloxetine (Cymbalta) for chronic musculoskeletal pain, including the pain of osteoarthritis. Although not FDA-approved for this use, another class of antidepressants called tricyclics may also help manage chronic pain. These include amitriptyline, desipramine (Norpramin), and imipramine (Tofranil). It is not exactly clear how antidepressants help curb pain, but antidepressant effects on brain chemicals is believed to play a role. Side effects can range from drowsiness to dry mouth and blurred vision. Rarely, these drugs can lead to mood changes or suicidal thoughts.
Most people with osteoarthritis don't need surgery, but if your pain and stiffness are so severe that you just can't function, your doctor might suggest it as a last resort. Surgery can improve your joint alignment, help your joints move more smoothly, and relieve your pain. Techniques used for osteoarthritis include:
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that may temporarily relieve arthritis pain, although whether it works better than medication or physical therapy is questionable. During this procedure, the surgeon makes a very small incision in the affected joint and inserts a thin, lighted tube and small surgical instruments. Through this small cut, the doctor can view joint damage and remove loose pieces of cartilage, smooth out rough surfaces, or remove damaged tissues.
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 so you can delay having joint replacement surgery.
In this technique, the surgeon removes the joint completely from the ends of the two bones that connect it. The bones are then held together with screws, pins, or plates until they heal. Over time, the bones should fuse into one piece, but they will no longer be flexible.
Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty)
Osteoarthritis 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.
Alternative Remedies for Osteoarthritis
A few complementary and alternative treatments have been studied for osteoarthritis 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 arthritis treatment, and some evidence of benefit has been suggestive but not conclusive in some patients.