Another OA treatment, viscosupplementation, involves injecting hyaluronic acid into the affected joint. Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in joint fluid, where it serves as lubricant. Unlike NSAIDs and steroids, these injections don’t take effect immediately.
Cymbalta, a medication originally used as an antidepressant, may also help with OA pain.
There is also a role for topical painkillers. These are available as creams, salves, or gels with a host of active ingredients including capsaicin which stems from hot peppers. These can help if your pain is mild. They can also be used as an add-on with other medications to achieve maximum control of your OA pain.
Some researchers are experimenting with platelet-rich plasma (PRP). This entails extracting platelet cells from your own blood, and re-injecting them into the injured joint, stimulating your body's natural healing process. Experts don’t agree on its effectiveness and more research is needed to determine how helpful it is for OA.
Other OA Treatments
Medication on its own is often not enough. So what else can help? Physical and occupational therapy along with assistive devices such as knee braces, canes and/or shoe insoles can help correct joint misalignment, and strengthen muscles surrounding achy joints.
For example, people with knee OA are often told to strengthen the quadriceps muscle (the big muscle on the front of the thigh). This can help insulate the joint from stress. It’s best to learn the correct way to exercise from a physical therapist or trainer to avoid overdoing it and getting injured, Hillstrom says.
Occupational therapists pitch in by helping people with OA better navigate their home or work environments. They have many tools at their disposal, such as leg extenders that lengthen the legs of your office or dining room chair so that you don’t have to bend as deeply to sit.
Many people also turn to alternative therapies to treat OA. For years, much hope was pinned on the use of two supplements -- glucosamine and chondroitin -- to help OA pain and possibly slow joint destruction. Glucosamine and chondroitin are part of normal cartilage, which serves as a cushion between the bones in a joint. A large government-funded study looking at the benefits of this duo did not pan out. That said, some people do see relief with these supplements, Hillstrom says. “They can’t hurt you and they may help.” Several weeks of treatment is typically needed to see any effect.
SAMe is another supplement that has shown promise for easing OA pain. Multiple studies have shown that SAMe may work as well as anti-inflammatory pain relievers for decreasing OA symptoms. This may be particularly helpful for people who have trouble with side effects from anti-inflammatory drugs, particularly stomach upset. SAMe may take up to 30 days before you begin to notice improvement.