Treating osteoarthritis – What are the best treatment methods?

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Osteoarthritis is caused by an imbalanced or excessive strain on the joint, with several possible different reasons for this – both genetic and lifestyle-related. Treating osteoarthritis is about reducing the damaging stress on the affected joint.

Although we don’t know yet for sure what exactly causes osteoarthritis, we do have a great deal of scientific material to confirm that physical activity does an excellent job as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis classes, where a group of people can exercise their hips and knees with the help of a physiotherapist, can reduce joint symptoms. Many can even resume a life where their hip or knee is almost pain-free.

Osteoarthritis treatment is now also available via the Joint Academy app. This offers treatment for knee and hip osteoarthritis. The treatment is adapted to the right level for each person. Everyone participating in Joint Academy gets a personal licensed Physical Therapist.

Using exercise to treat osteoarthritis

According to the guidelines from the National Board of Health and Welfare and based on international research and information from international organizations (such as OARSI), exercise should be the first course of treatment for osteoarthritis. The reason for this is that exercise helps reduce the damaging strain that osteoarthritis exerts on the joint. In some cases, weight loss may also be appropriate if the strain on the joints is excessive.

Exercise has a positive impact on the connection between the breakdown of the cartilage’s basic components in the joint and building them up again. This means that the cartilage is stimulated to repair itself. As the exercise begins to have an effect, the muscles around the joint also grow stronger. The upshot of this then is that the affected joint can take more strain without getting damaged. Exercise also makes it easier to exert strain on the joints in the correct manner, which will reduce the risk of the osteoarthritis developing further.

Physical activity and specific exercises, preferably under the supervision of a physiotherapist, reduce the pain and improve function with osteoarthritis. The pain relief will be felt over time (after a few weeks) and not immediately after exercising, but the results will also continue to be felt for a long time.

HOW TO MANAGE SYMPTOMS

Take short breaks to recover during various activities. You can wear a stabilizing support, known as an orthosis, (mainly for the thumb) to improve your grip and reduce pain. Use a stick or crutch to ease the strain on your hip or knee.

Painkillers for treating osteoarthritis

Over-the-counter pain relievers are effective in reducing joint pain with osteoarthritis. But they should not be regarded as a complete treatment for osteoarthritis in itself as they only treat symptoms and not the actual condition. Another consideration is that the medicine affects not only the hip or knee joint, but the whole body as the tablet has to be transported through several internal organs.

It is also good to know that exercise is better at relieving the pain in the long term than medicines. Not to mention that exercise has no side effects! However, sometimes you may need to take pain relievers to cope with exercising.

Strong pain relievers supplied on prescription are not good for osteoarthritis. They are not any more effective than over-the-counter alternatives for treating chronic conditions. They also come with a number of side effects and an increased risk of becoming dependent on them.

Using herbal medicinal products to treat osteoarthritis

Herbal medicinal products are frequently mentioned in reference to osteoarthritis. But what is the actual truth when it comes to things like glucosamine and rose hip powder? The scientific studies which have been meticulously carried out on these substances actually indicate that they are not any more effective than a placebo (which produces a psychological effect only based on the knowledge of having received treatment). Therefore, they should not be considered as an option for treating osteoarthritis.

Performing an operation on a knee joint and hip joint is a last resort

Performing specific physical exercises works as a treatment for osteoarthritis for the majority of people. But a prosthetic implant may be the right solution for a few people. Even though this is one of the most common operations we perform nowadays in our hospitals, the procedure for inserting a prosthetic implant is not entirely risk-free, no matter how much preparation is done beforehand or how skillful the orthopedic surgeon performing the operation is. This is why a prosthetic implant is not the first step in treating osteoarthritis even if it produces a positive result for most people and lasts for a long time.

This operation involves a joint made artificially from metal or plastic (i.e. a prosthesis) being inserted where the old joint was. This results in the joint pain caused by the osteoarthritis being reduced or disappearing. Unfortunately, a prosthetic implant will never be as good as a natural joint. It also means, unfortunately, that carrying out intense sporting and other activities which exert a serious strain should be avoided after the operation.

If you think that a knee or hip operation might be right for you, you should try exercise as the first course of treatment for your osteoarthritis. If this doesn’t work, talk to an orthopedic specialist. The reason why you should always try exercise as a form of treatment before undergoing an operation is that exercise is completely risk-free. You also have nothing to lose by doing exercise. It doesn’t harm your chances of having an operation. In fact, if anything, it provides better conditions for performing the operation. Therefore, exercise doesn’t need to be a substitute for an operation but can complement it.

Read more about treating osteoarthritis through lifestyle changes.

WHAT TO DO BEFORE SURGERY

Do some exercise. If you are in better physical shape, it means fewer risks and better results. Sleep and eat properly: improved general health reduces the risk of infections. Stop smoking: smoking increases both the recovery time and the risk of infections and blood clots. Avoid alcohol: alcohol increases the risk of things like infections, lung complications, and ICU treatment.