Treatment for osteoarthritis may include medications, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and surgery, among others.

Treatment for osteoarthritis will depend on several factors, such as the severity of your symptoms and how the condition affects you.

A healthcare professional can help you develop the best treatment plan to help:

  • relieve symptoms, such as joint pain and stiffness
  • slow the progression of the disease
  • increase your quality of life

Osteoarthritis treatment may include a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.

Keep reading to learn more about treatment for osteoarthritis.

The best way to prevent osteoarthritis symptoms is to avoid activities that may cause flare-ups or put too much strain on the affected joint.

Some lifestyle changes may also help you manage your symptoms of osteoarthritis.


Exercise may play a major role in osteoarthritis treatment. It may help you:

  • maintain healthy joints
  • relieve stiffness
  • reduce pain and fatigue
  • increase muscle and bone strength
  • improve balance to prevent falls
  • manage weight to prevent excess strain on your joints

A combination of aerobic and resistance training is the best to help manage osteoarthritis. However, it’s important to stick to low impact exercises like cycling, walking, and aquatic exercises.

Speak with a healthcare professional about the best exercises for your condition. They may recommend specific exercises for the part of your body affected, such as your hands, knees, or hips.


Eating a well-balanced diet may play a key role in your osteoarthritis treatment plan.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, some foods may help lower inflammation. This could help relieve joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Learn more about the best diets and foods for osteoarthritis.

Maintain a healthy-for-you weight

Exercising and eating a well-balanced diet may help you maintain a healthy-for-you weight, which is an essential part of osteoarthritis treatment.

If you have obesity or overweight, losing weight may help:

  • relieve inflammation, pain, and joint pressure
  • increase remission periods
  • decrease disease activity and cartilage degeneration

Research suggests that for each pound of body weight you lose, you may relieve the strain on your knee joints by 3–6 times.

Speak with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian about the best exercise and diet regimen for you.

Heat and cold therapies

Heat and cold therapies may help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms.

  • Cold therapy: This may help relieve aches, swelling, and inflammation. Apply ice wrapped in a towel or a cold compress to the affected area for 20 minutes 2–3 times per day.
  • Heat therapy: This may help relieve stiffness. Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad to the affected area for 20 minutes 2–3 times per day.

Learn more about natural remedies for osteoarthritis.

Physical therapy for osteoarthritis may help you:

  • improve muscle strength
  • increase the range of motion of stiff joints
  • reduce pain
  • improve gait and balance

A physical therapist could also help you with assistive devices, such as splints, braces, and canes. These can provide support to weakened joints and injured bones.

Several types of over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms. These may include:

Speak with a doctor about potential side effects before taking OTC medications.

For example, NSAIDs may cause significant side effects over time, such as gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems. A doctor may recommend topical NSAIDs to decrease the risk of these side effects.

A healthcare professional may prescribe medications for osteoarthritis if OTC medications aren’t helping manage your symptoms. Depending on the type of prescription medication, these may be available orally, topically, or by injection.


Corticosteroids reduce inflammation, which decreases swelling and pain in joints. These are typically given by injection to the affected area, which makes them highly effective at treating acute pain.

Five injection medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of osteoarthritis:

Corticosteroid injections only provide temporary relief, so you may require more than one injection per year.

However, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional about long-term treatment. Over time, corticosteroids may pose numerous side effects, such as headaches, infection, and vision changes, among others.

Some other injection medications have been used to help treat osteoarthritis, such as:

However, these aren’t FDA-approved and more research is needed to support their role in osteoarthritis treatment.

Prescription NSAIDs

Prescription NSAIDs are longer-lasting, stronger doses of OTC NSAIDs. They help reduce inflammation, which could help relieve symptoms and increase mobility.

Prescription NSAIDs include:

It’s important to speak with a doctor before taking prescription NSAIDs, as they may cause undesirable side effects.

Pain relievers

Some prescription pain relievers may provide short-term relief from severe pain but have the potential to cause addiction. As such, they’re not recommended for treating osteoarthritis.

Severe cases of osteoarthritis may require surgery to replace or repair damaged joints that can’t be treated with other osteoarthritis treatments.

Joint replacement surgery could help increase your mobility, strength, and balance, as well as reduce pain.

During this surgery, a healthcare professional will replace part of or the entire damaged joint with a prosthetic joint made of metal, plastic, or ceramic.

Hip and knee replacements are the most common types of joint replacement. However, other joints can be replaced, including the shoulders, elbows, fingers, and ankles.

Other types of surgery for osteoarthritis treatment may include:

What is the best treatment for osteoarthritis?

The best treatment for osteoarthritis will depend on several factors, such as the severity of your symptoms. Treatment may include a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and surgery.

What should you not do with osteoarthritis?

It’s best to avoid activities that put extra strain, pressure, or weight on your joints. This may include high impact exercises, carrying lots of weight, and eating a diet that may cause high inflammation.

How do you stop osteoarthritis from progressing?

A healthcare professional could help develop a treatment plan to stop your condition from progressing. This may include exercising, taking medications, using assistive devices, or getting surgery.

Treatment for osteoarthritis will aim to help relieve your symptoms, reduce inflammation, and increase your quality of life.

Many options are available for treating osteoarthritis. A healthcare professional could help develop the best treatment plan for you.