Osteoarthritis Clinical Trials

Medically reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on May 27, 2014Written by Kristeen Cherney on May 27, 2014

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common joint condition that occurs over time when the cartilage between your bones breaks down. While it’s common in older adults, the joint disease can also affect younger people with joint problems. Injuries, overuse, and pressure from weight gain are major causes.

This joint disease most commonly affects:

  • knees
  • spine
  • hips
  • hands

There’s no single cause of arthritis, so there’s no universal treatment plan. Participating in a clinical trial can give you access to possible new treatments for your condition, and you may help future patients in the process. This is an option worth discussing with your doctor.

What Are Osteoarthritis Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials test new treatment methods on current OA patients. Participants are generally dealing with chronic or ongoing pain. The purpose of these trials is to test the effectiveness of a new treatment in relieving OA pain.

An OA clinical trial might test:

  • new prescription medications
  • herbal supplements
  • physical therapy devices
  • electrical nerve stimulation machines
  • efficacy of certain aerobic and strength-training exercises

In order to test the effectiveness of a treatment, trial participants are split into groups. One group might take a new drug, while another takes a drug that is already available to the public. This is how medical professionals can determine any differences, and whether the treatment in question provides any significant improvement in symptoms or safety compared with current treatment options.

OA can affect people in different ways. OA clinical trials typically focus on specific joints in order to limit the number of variables in a study. These types of studies are most common in knee arthritis because of its prevalence in the American population. If you have joint damage in your knees, you may have an easier time finding clinical trials than someone with OA of the hand.

Arthritis is a common cause of disability in the United States. Certain clinical trials are designed specifically for patients with little to no independent mobility. Such studies may focus on new methods to help disabled people walk.

How to Volunteer

All OA clinical trials take participants on a volunteer basis. Even if you’re not paid for your time and effort, there are other benefits to consider. Clinical trials are one of the only ways to establish more effective and safer therapies. You can help contribute to the future of OA treatment by participating. And if a treatment ends up working safely and effectively, you may potentially alleviate joint pain and/or improve mobility.

OA clinical trial groups often look for volunteers on a rolling basis. It’s important to clarify which type of treatment you’re willing to test. Medications and supplements are among the most risky because of the chance of side effects. Discuss all options with your doctor before participating.

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