Knee osteoarthritis (OA) can affect your every move: walking, climbing stairs, even sitting or lying down. Surgery can help bring relief, but doctors almost always advise trying other treatment options first. These include:
Creaky, achy joints. A twinge in the knee. A sharp shooting pain from the shoulder to the elbow. No big deal, right?
Wrong. All too often, we assume joint pain is a normal part of aging that we just have to learn to live with. Nothing could be further from the truth, say experts, pointing to a wealth of treatment options from exercise and alternative supplements to medications and joint replacement surgery.
It's a serious problem, because pain can affect every aspect of your life. "Pain is not...
Creams or ointments you rub onto the skin. Different forms are sold over the counter. You can get stronger versions with a prescription.
Medications injected into the joint. Corticosteroid injections, also called cortisone shots, fight inflammation and can offer fast pain relief that may last up to several months. Injections of hyaluronic acid boost the natural joint fluid that keeps knees moving smoothly. They may take up to a couple of months to have their full effect but can last up to 6 months or more.
Exercise and physical therapy.Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your knee. Physical therapy also helps. A physical therapist can design the program for you and see if you need supportive braces, splints, or canes. If you need to lose weight, diet and exercise can help you shed some pounds and take some of the pressure off your knees.
Weight loss. Every pound you gain puts an extra 3 pounds of pressure on your knees. If you eventually need knee replacement surgery, your chances of success are much greater if you first lose extra weight.
Nutritional supplements. Some people take glucosamine and chondroitin for OA. Studies on how well they work have had mixed results. Another supplement, called SAMe, has been shown to work as well as nonprescription pain relievers and may have fewer side effects. It takes longer to work, though. Before you start taking any supplements, even if they're natural, tell your doctor so he can check for any side effects.
These treatment options may provide enough relief to keep you moving comfortably. If they don't, they become less effective over time, or you can't tolerate them, your doctor may suggest considering surgery. The two types of surgery most often recommended for knee OA are arthroscopic surgery and knee replacement surgery.