Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects millions of people in the United States. Osteoarthritis can interfere with a person’s ability to perform routine daily tasks and activities. People who have osteoarthritis experience limited movement and joint pain because the cartilage in their joints begins to break down and eventually wears away. Once the cartilage erodes, the bones rub together causing pain and a reduction in range of movement. Over time, bone spurs build up which will cause more severe pain and further limit the movement of the joints. There is no known cure for osteoarthritis.
The Principle Symptoms of Osteoarthritis Are:
Limited range of motion
Swelling in the joint
Osteophyte formation (bone spurs)
Greater pain and stiffness upon waking
Treatments to Manage Osteoarthritis Pain:
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) offers guidelines for the treatment of osteoarthritis which include pharmacologic (drug) and non-pharmacologic treatments. Non-drug treatments should always be considered initially and will likely provide some relief in the early stages of osteoarthritis.
Stretching and range of motion movement
Hot and cold therapy
Acetaminophen NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) COX-2 inhibitor (Celebrex, etc) Over-the-counter creams and gels Injections into the joint (corticosteroids, etc.)
Attempting non-drug therapy first is advisable due to the potential for side effects with any medication. A few of the more common non-drug treatments are exercise, weight reduction and control, hot and cold therapy, and stress control.
Exercise and Weight Reduction For Osteoarthritis:
Being overweight, even moderately, can have severe consequences for the weight-bearing joints and can contribute to the pain and progression of osteoarthritis. For every pound a person is overweight, it adds the equivalent of three to five pounds of additional pressure on the joints as you walk, run, or exercise. Losing ten pounds means that the joints will bear 30 to 50 pounds less of stress. Exercise should be an important part of any weight-loss regimen. Regular exercise helps shed pounds, contributes to joint mobility, and is vital in keeping the muscles strong. Walking, swimming, yoga, and bicycling are all excellent forms of exercise for someone who is experiencing pain from osteoarthritis. Both cardio and strength exercises should be included in an exercise program. Any proper fitness program will also include stretching; this is even more important for those suffering from osteoarthritis. Stretching will help increase and maintain range of motion and reduce overall stiffness. Before beginning any exercise program it is advisable to check with your physician first. It can also be helpful to work with a physical therapist or personal trainer in the beginning; these exercise experts can help design an appropriate fitness program that may help relieve the pain of osteoarthritis.
Hot and Cold Therapy:
Hot and cold therapy can be useful in any pain management program. Some people respond better to heat therapy while others experience more relief with cold therapy. Heat is often utilized to relax muscles or lessen pain prior to exercise. Cold therapy can be used to reduce swelling and decrease the pain in a sore joint.
How to Use Heat Therapy: Hot packs or heating pads can be placed over painful joints· Moist heat such as warm towels, showers, baths, or hot tubs help relieve pain· Heat should be applied at a comfortable temperature
How to Use Cold Therapy: Ice or reusable cold packs can be applied directly to the painful area· Ice and cold packs should never be placed directly on the skin· Ice or cold packs should not be applied for more than 20 minutes
Stress and emotional anxiety are generally more important considerations with rheumatoid arthritis, but stress control can still help decrease the pain from osteoarthritis. Repeated stress from money problems, family issues, work hassles, and other stressful activities may increase joint pain and reduce the effects of pain management efforts. Some techniques to reduce stress include:
Breath control and breathing exercises
Coping skills and assertiveness training
Social support with family and friends
The Bottom Line on Treating Osteoarthritis:
There are 16 different non-pharmacologic treatments for hip and knee osteoarthritis specified by The American College of Rheumatology. It is best to do research about each one and consult with a doctor or therapist to determine what treatment offers the highest chance for success. Before attempting to manage pain with drugs or surgery, non-drug treatment should always be considered.
Cinergy Health & Life Insurance Agency is dedicated to providing quality health and life insurance plans for people in a variety of life situations. For more information on a selection of health and medical topics, visit the Cinergy Health & Life Learning Center at http://www.cinergyhealth.com .
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