Nonsurgical treatment of osteoarthritis discussed

February 5, 2013

Osteoarthritis is a progressive joint disease that affects approximately one third of individuals age 65 and older. The disorder causes gradual loss of joint cartilage and bony degeneration while simultaneously creating new bone formation, or bone spurs. The end result of this cascade is joint stiffness, loss of motion and pain. In addition, some individuals also experience irritation of the joint lining, synovitis, which causes painful accumulation of excess joint fluid.

"Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, so our goal in treatment is to slow disease progression while minimizing pain and disability," said Peter Seidenberg, a primary care physician with Penn State Sports Medicine in State College, part of Penn State Hershey Bone and Joint Institute.

Exercise is the foundation of treatment for , or OA, Seidenberg said. Strength gained from exercise improves joint mobility, function and pain, as well as assists with weight loss. Just 10 extra pounds on a person's body increases the risk of by 50 percent.

For people unable to participate in traditional , aqua therapy has proven very beneficial. Water helps off-load arthritic joints, decreasing discomfort during exercise. For people who have significant pain and mobility deficits, physical therapy helps lessen pain and improve function. Some individuals may also benefit from bracing or shoe inserts.

Oral medications have been used to treat OA for many years. There are several different classes of medications that have been shown to be helpful in minimizing symptoms. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the first choice for pain control. If taken in the proper dosage, it is safe and effective in decreasing OA pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) are another class of medications commonly used to treat OA. They are available in both prescription and nonprescription forms (e.g. ibuprofen). While have been found to be superior to acetaminophen in controlling the pain of OA, chronic use is associated with stomach ulcers, thinning of blood, kidney damage and heart disease.

Several supplements also are used to attempt to control OA pain. Glucosamine has been shown in some studies to decrease OA symptoms in two thirds of patients. Chondroitin has been suggested to have an additive effect to glucosamine, but studies show mixed results as to its efficacy. Some clinicians also recommend high dose omega 3 fatty acid supplementation.

Joint injections are another option for treatment of OA joint pain.

"Cortisone has long been used to decrease both pain and inflammation," Seidenberg said. "However, this does not affect disease progression and repeated injections can actually cause cartilage degeneration. So we generally recommend limiting cortisone injections to three per year in the same joint."

This is in contrast to hyaluronic acid injection, which does not harm cartilage and may actually slow . Some physicians perform these injections under ultrasound guidance to minimize discomfort and ensure accurate placement of the medication. With the use of ultrasound, even hip joint injections can be performed in the office safely with little pain.

Talk to your doctor about which OA treatment options might be best for you.

Explore further: Chondroitin sulfate improves hand function, relieves morning stiffness caused by osteoarthritis

Related Stories

Chondroitin sulfate improves hand function, relieves morning stiffness caused by osteoarthritis

September 6, 2011
New research shows that chondroitin sulfate significantly decreased pain and improved hand function in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand compared with those in the placebo group. Results of the clinical trial ...

Study looks at pain processing abnormalities in knee OA

September 17, 2012
(HealthDay)—For patients with knee osteoarthritis (K-OA), the lack of correlation between clinical pain and radiographic evidence of disease severity may be due to central sensitization, according to a study published online ...

Lawson scientist presents joint pain treatment 2.0

August 9, 2011
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting roughly 10% of Canadians. This degradation of the joints is painful and crippling, especially when it affects the knee. Although there are viable OA treatment ...

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.