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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is a painful condition of the joints that affects more than 3 million Americans every year.
Also referred to as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is caused by wear-and-tear on the joints as the cartilage between bones becomes damaged or breaks down over time. Age, injury to the joint, and being overweight are some of the most common risk factors for the condition. The disease affects primarily older people, causing joint pain in the hands, knees, neck, lower back, and hips.
“Treatment of osteoarthritis is based on the severity of the symptoms,” said Adam Dann, DO, an orthopedist with Kettering Health Network. “Surgery, typically the replacement of major joints like a hip or knee, is the last resort.”
Dr. Dann offered some suggestions about what you can do to help manage osteoarthritis:
1. Take anti-inflammatories: Over-the-counter options, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, could provide some relief from osteoarthritis. You should consult your physician before beginning any drug regimen. Of course, there are prescription options available, but if something over-the-counter solves the problem, that may be the best choice.
2. Consider supplements: For those who prefer a more natural approach, dietary supplements with anti-inflammatory properties may be a good option to try. Turmeric, for example, contains the chemical curcumin and may help reduce joint pain and swelling by blocking inflammatory enzymes.
3. Get moving: Thoughtful modification of day-to-day activities also can make a difference in managing the pain. If there are activities that increase the pain, try changing methods to help minimize the likelihood of a flare-up. Physical activity can be one of the best non-medical, drug-free ways to manage arthritis pain.
4. Build strength: For the hips and knees, targeted activity such as range-of-motion, endurance, and aerobic exercises can help strengthen muscles that support and protect joints affected by arthritis. Walking and water exercises are great options for arthritis sufferers because they are low-impact and help to relieve the pressure of the body’s weight on affected joints.
5. Assistive devices: For painful hand joints, you can try switching to larger-handled toothbrushes, hair brushes, or kitchen tools that could be easier to grasp. There are also special devices available to assist with opening jars and door handles, and supportive devices like crutches and canes can help take pressure off joints.
Since osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition, once the arthritis is there, it is permanent – you cannot regrow the cartilage. That doesn’t always mean that the symptoms are going to be the same. “Even though arthritis doesn’t go away, the symptoms might improve over time,” Dr. Dann said. “If the pain is not interfering with daily activity and quality of life, treatment becomes an option rather than imperative.”
If, however, you have tried all of these options and the pain is interfering with your day-to-day activity, it may be time to see a doctor. Kettering Health Network orthopedists are available to serve you at multiple locations throughout the Dayton and Hamilton areas.
Visit www.ketteringhealth.org/ortho or call 1-844-228-6683 to request an appointment.