Osteoarthritis and How to Treat It

If you suffer from joint pain, you may find it hard to accomplish everyday activities. Having osteoarthritis can mean living with discomfort, stiffness, and loss of flexibility. However, there are things you can do to improve your quality of life.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it develops gradually as the cartilage in your joints wears down. This degenerative disease can affect any joint, but the most common trouble spots are your knees, hips, lower back, neck, and hands. As the cartilage that cushions your bones deteriorates, the surfaces become rough and cause irritation. In some cases, the cartilage may wear down to such a point that you have bone rubbing on bone.

Causes and Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis can be caused by a number of issues. The aging process, injury, and stress can all contribute to the disease. So can hereditary factors and muscle weakness. In addition, if you carry extra weight, that puts more pressure on your joints, which can make the condition worse.

Mature Man Working With a Physical Therapist
Diagnosis and Treatment

If you have symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness, your doctor will first do a physical exam. You may also have x-rays taken, which will help your physician better review your joints.

Depending on how severe your condition is, there are various treatment options for you.

· Medication: Many over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help relieve the pain you are feeling. Your doctor may also prescribe stronger painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. You may benefit from cortisone injections, which can help relieve pain as well.

· Physical therapy and exercise: Working with a physical therapist can help you strengthen the muscles around your joints, which provides more support. It can also enable you to regain flexibility and range of motion. Talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercise can be good for you. Many people with osteoarthritis benefit from swimming, walking, yoga, and tai chi.

· Surgery: In some cases, if your joint is severely damaged, you may require surgery. Options include resurfacing, partial joint replacement, and total joint replacement. Discuss the various procedures with your doctor, and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.

As you learn to live with osteoarthritis, pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. If you’re experiencing inflammation, allow yourself to rest. On good days, try to keep moving. While exercise can seem daunting at first, studies show that regular physical activity can actually assist in relieving the discomfort you’re feeling. It will also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is good for your joints.

To learn more about living with arthritis, contact the Physical Medicine and Rehab department at Denton Regional Medical Center. Visit us online or call our outpatient program at 940-384-3950. Serving Denton, Wise, Cooke, and Montague Counties, we’re here to answer all your questions.

Denton Regional Medical Center
Arthritis Foundation
National Institutes of Health

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