Dealing With Arthritis – All Your Options

Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in people around the world with the World Health Organisation estimating that between 10% and 15% of all adults aged over 60 have some degree of osteoarthritis (OA).

While there is no scientifically proven cure for OA, there are natural supplements that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the disease, slow its progression or help to ameliorate its symptoms. You can click here for more information as Review Critic provides interesting and objectives analyses of the various supplements designed to assist with joint pain and stiffness caused by OA.

What is OA?

OA is a degenerative joint disease that usually affects the knee, hip or hands, particularly the small finger joints and thumb. It is most common in knees.

In OA, the cartilage – a tough, smooth rubber-like padding that covers and protects the ends of long bones at the joints – is worn away. Sometimes it disappears altogether which leaves two unprotected bones to rub against each other. This can result in damage to the bone itself.

Damaged articular cartilage, as well as pain avoidance, loss of extensibility of the capsule surrounding the joint, and loss of extensibility of the muscles over the joint means your knee starts to lose its ability to extend and flex, reducing your range of motion.

The disease usually progresses slowly but it can ultimately lead to joint failure with pain and disability.There are no scientifically proven reasons as to why some people develop OA. It may have a genetic component. Being overweight, doing jobs or sports that involve repetitive motions, as well as old injuries or ones that didn’t heal properly can also increase the risk of developing OA.

Conservative Treatment

The objective of treatment for OA is to reduce pain, manage symptoms, improve quality of life, and prevent further joint destruction.

The first line of conservative treatment is pain medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen which can help to reduce swelling and pain.

If these no longer provide relief, an injection into the affected joint with a steroid such as cortisone can help to reduce inflammation.

Another option is a Hyaluronic acid (HA) injection into the joint. HA is a sugar that is naturally present in the body. When injected into the affected joint by a healthcare professional it acts as a cushion and lubricant in the joint. HA may also delay the need for total joint replacement (TJR) surgery.

Physiotherapy which helps to increase muscle strength can also be effective in reducing symptoms.

Other conservative treatment options include losing weight; have a podiatrist make customized inner soles to wear in your shoes to relieve pressure on your joints; and using walking aids such as crutches or walking frames to relieve the load on the affected joint.

However, if these conservative methods do not provide the required relief, or if you feel your quality of life has been too negatively affected, it may be time to consider surgery.

Surgical Treatment

It has been estimated that around 54% of knee OA patients will receive a total knee replacement (TKR). However, before opting a knee replacement, Arthroscopy – a less invasive surgery – could be considered.

Arthroscopy involves the surgical removal of the damaged or infected tissue in the joint. You would probably be fully anaesthetised as the surgeon makes one or more small incisions and inserts a pencil-sized instrument that contains a small lens to see exactly what is going on and to make the necessary repairs.

Total Joint Replacement

When is the right time to consider a total joint replacement (TJR)?

This answer will be different for every individual. It is also not always possible to rely on x-rays for an answer. The decision should be together with your surgeon based on your symptoms and the severity of your pain and its effect on your quality of life.

The decision to opt for TJR is not one that should be made lightly as it involves major surgery and weeks, or possibly months, of rehabilitation treatment.

On the other hand, you should not wait too long before making a decision. Data from a 2014 joint replacement monitoring programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the United States shows that delaying the surgery could prevent you from fully benefiting from the procedure.