How is Osteoarthritis treated?
Osteoarthritis, the most common types of arthritis in the UK, causes pain, stiffness and sometimes swelling of the joints.
Generally people experience mild symptoms on and off, which can progress over time to more significant and consistent discomfort and loss of function.
Whilst there are many causes of osteoarthritis, your risk of developing the condition increases with age, obesity and any history of joint injury. The symptoms experienced are as a result of the breakdown of the protective cartilage which lines the contacts between joints.
Unfortunately there is currently no known cure for osteoarthritis, however there are many therapies and lifestyle changes that can help improve your symptoms and quality of life. As with most treatments, measures to help combat osteoarthritis symptoms are best put in place sooner rather than later. Our consultant team have experience guiding hundreds of patients from osteoarthritic pain to improved joint health and mobility.
Mild osteoarthritis treatment
Simple steps include adding more exercise during daily routine, reducing your body weight and reducing high impact strain on joints.
It is however important to include exercise even if osteoarthritis is a source of some discomfort. By keeping moving you not only ensure your joints remain functional but also build muscle and reduce pain over the long term.
If you are unsure if losing weight would be of benefit, you can use an online BMI calculator. After entering the necessary information, if your BMI is found to be over 25, taking steps to reduce your weight through diet and exercise will result in an improvement in your existing osteoarthritis symptoms.
Many patients with mild symptoms find that these steps alone can make significant improvement to both their joint function and quality of life.
Moderate osteoarthritis treatment
For more persistent symptoms you may benefit from simple analgesia such as paracetamol taken regularly each day. One of our experienced rheumatology team can assess your signs and symptoms more closely in the clinic, allowing them to recommend intervention from other specialists such as physiotherapists and podiatrists.
Physiotherapists are experts in returning patients to the best possible level of movement and mobility. During their assessment they can also suggest aids and supports such as braces or splints which can protect your joint and reduce pain.
You may be offered the use of a TENS machine, which specifically helps with pain relief. This is a small device with sticky pads that adhere to the skin, sending small amounts of electricity to your nerve endings. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, many find this device useful in reducing their osteoarthritic pain levels.
Further osteoarthritis treatment options
If symptoms persist in causing significant pain or limit your daily function then there are further steps you can take with your rheumatologist. This could include moving to stronger painkillers such as opioids, although these must be carefully balanced as they have a range of potential side effects.
Sudden increases in pain known as flareups can at times be treated by steroid injections into the joint which many patients find helpful. Ongoing osteoarthritic pain and loss of function despite utilising the treatments mentioned earlier in this article may mean you are referred to an orthopaedic surgeon.
Our rheumatologists work closely with the orthopaedic team and in conjunction with our patients to ensure the right surgical intervention is chosen, if it is needed is all. Common surgical procedures for osteoarthritis include replacing the joint so that there is no friction between the two bones, thereby restoring function and removing the source of pain.
To book an appointment with a specialist please call us on 0207 079 2100 or email [email protected].