Even though there is no cure for osteoarthritis, treatment can help reduce your symptoms and make it possible for you to lead a full and active life.
The goals of treatment are to:
- Reduce your pain and stiffness.
- Keep your joints working and moving well.
- Keep you from becoming disabled.
- Prevent more damage to your joints.
Treatment is based on:
- How bad your symptoms are.
- How much your symptoms prevent you from doing your daily tasks.
- How well other treatments have worked.
- How much damage to the joint (or joints) you have.
Treatment for mild to moderate arthritis
In most cases, people who have mild to moderate arthritis can manage their symptoms for many years with a treatment plan that may include:
- Medicines, including acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Or you may use capsaicin cream on your skin.
- ExerciseExercise to help keep your muscles strong and your joints moving well.
- Weight lossWeight loss, if you're overweight, to reduce the stress on your joints.
- Heat and cold therapyHeat and cold therapy, such as hot compresses, cold packs, ice massage, or paraffin wax.
- Physical therapyPhysical therapy or occupational therapyoccupational therapy.
- Assistive devices and orthoticsAssistive devices and orthotics, such as tape, braces, splints, or canes to help protect your joints from injury and take the stress off of your joints.
- Changing activities or the way you do thingsChanging activities or the way you do things to rest or reduce the stress on the painful joint and allow you to move better.
- Learning and practicing a "good-health attitude"Learning and practicing a "good-health attitude" to help you cope with the stress and challenges of living with arthritis.
Some people with arthritis also feel down or depressed. They may describe this as feeling "depressed," "unhappy," "short-tempered," "blue," or "down in the dumps." If you feel like this most of the time, tell your doctor. Treating these symptoms may help you feel better and make it easier for you to do your daily tasks.
Treatment if arthritis gets worse
If the pain and stiffness from arthritis don't get better or they get worse, your doctor may recommend:
- Steroid shots.
- Pain medicine called tramadol.
- Opioid pain medicines.
- Physical therapy or occupational therapy.
If your pain is very bad, you may decide to have surgery to replace the joint. Or you may decide to have some other kind of surgery that can help keep your joints moving well and prevent your arthritis from getting worse.
Some types of surgery include:
- Finger or toe surgery.
- Joint replacement (hip, knee, or shoulder).
- Osteotomy (knee or hip).
For help deciding whether to have joint replacement surgery, see: