Ways to Improve Life with Osteoarthritis
Living with osteoarthritis can mean pain and restricted movements, but there are steps that can reduce symptoms and ease pain. Know the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and the best way to treat it to stay informed. Also, using these specific tips on diet, exercise, and pain management can help you return to a more normal lifestyle.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA), sometimes called degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is the most common chronic joint condition and the leading cause of disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 32.5 million adults in the United States are affected by OA.
OA occurs in the joint, where two bones come together. Normally there is a protective tissue known as cartilage that covers the ends of the bones. But when this tissue breaks down, the bones within the joint will rub together, causing pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.
OA can occur within any joint, but is commonly known to affect the following areas:
What are the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis?
While OA can occur at any age, it most often affects older adults. Symptoms can often be slow to develop and may worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Pain. It may hurt during or after moving infected areas.
- Stiffness. Joint stiffness is especially common upon waking or after periods of inactivity.
- Tenderness. You may feel tenderness on or near the joint when you apply light pressure to the area.
- Decreased flexibility. Your joint may not be able to extend to its full range of motion anymore.
- Swelling. Soft tissue inflammation may cause swelling in the area of the joint.
- Bone spurs. Hard lumps, which are extra bits of bone, may form on or around the affected joint.
- Grating sensation. You may feel as if the bones are grating together or you might hear popping and cracking when you move.
What can I do at home to help with osteoarthritis?
When diagnosed with osteoarthritis, you need to take steps in your day-to-day living to accommodate the changes in your body. Here’s what you can do to treat osteoarthritis at home.
You should consider monitoring your diet. Your daily meals should include fresh fruits and vegetables and less sugary, fatty, or processed foods. A healthy diet will help you lose weight and reduce strain on your joints.
Your doctor may suggest weight management, as extra weight can increase osteoarthritis pain and symptoms. Losing even a few pounds can reduce the pressure on your joints and bring some relief.
Getting at least eight hours of sleep each night is another step toward a healthier, happier you. You can reduce pain by decreasing the swelling and inflammation in your joints through simply resting your muscles each night.
If you notice swelling or increased pain, try heat and cold therapy. Alternate between a hot and cold compress directly on the sore joint area for at least 15 minutes several times throughout the day.
While rest is incredibly important, so is activity. Exercise strengthens your muscles and can help relieve stiffness that may occur after sitting for extended periods. Some exercises can help with pain and may improve flexibility.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical movement every other day. Activities that will be most beneficial are gentle exercises, such as walking, swimming, and yoga.
How is osteoarthritis treated?
While OA can’t be cured, there are treatments that help reduce pain and allow a freer range of motion. The three types of treatment options include medications, therapy, and surgery.
Therapy & Holistic Methods
Therapy, including massage and chiropractic therapy, can help relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis. Therapy options include:
- Occupational therapy: An occupational therapist can help you learn to live with joint pain by uncovering new ways of doing everyday activities. For instance, if you have back or knee pain and are unable to stand for long periods, they may suggest using a shower seat in your shower.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): A TENS unit, when applied to the problem area, provides low-voltage electrical currents that relieve pain.
- Exercise: Regular exercise using gentle activities, such as walking or swimming, can effectively help with OA symptoms.
- Chiropractic care: Manual therapy used in chiropractic care can work out issues with your joints and soft tissue. Chiropractors can make an adjustment with a quick, forceful thrust to relieve pain and other symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
There are numerous medications that can help with OA pain and sometimes help with swelling, as well. If holistic approaches do not work, some may end up trying medications like these.
- Acetaminophen: Medicines like Tylenol can help people experiencing mild to moderate pain from OA.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (like Advil and Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (such as Aleve) can relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription. Some NSAIDs are available in gel form and can be applied directly to the affected joint with fewer side effects.
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta): Originally used as an antidepressant, Cymbalta has been proven to treat chronic pain, such as that associated with OA.
If more conservative options fail, OA patients may consider more aggressive treatments, such as surgical procedures. These treatments are really a last option due to the potential dangers associated with surgery.
- Cortisone injections: Corticosteroid injections inserted directly into the joint could relieve pain for several weeks.
- Lubrication injections: Hyaluronic acid injections could ease pain associated with OA because it may provide cushioning in the joint that might be lacking.
- Osteotomy: If osteoarthritis has damaged one side of the joint more than the other, a surgeon may either remove or add a wedge of bone to shift your body weight away from the damaged area.
- Joint replacement: A surgeon will remove the damaged joint and replace it with plastic and metal parts.
Can a Chiropractor Help with Osteoarthritis?
It would be smart to see a chiropractor on a regular basis to get an exam and consistent adjustments. Visiting your chiropractor can help soothe pain associated with OA and ease the severity of symptoms.
Your chiropractor can make adjustments to your spine that will stop pain, decrease inflammation, and reduce other OA symptoms without invasive surgery or the need for medications. Chiropractic care should be your first choice in treating your osteoarthritis symptoms.
These modifications to your lifestyle along with regular chiropractic care can help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms and improve your overall well-being. Schedule an appointment with us online or call 256-721-9696 today.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.