There’s no cure for osteoarthritis (OA) yet, but there are ways to relieve symptoms.
Combining medical treatment and lifestyle changes can help you:
- reduce discomfort
- improve quality of life
- slow the progression of the disease
Read on to learn about the lifestyle changes and other treatments that can help relieve your OA symptoms.
Having a healthy weight can help you manage OA. Additional weight can put unnecessary strain on your:
Scientists have found that, for people with obesity, every additional 10 pounds raises the risk of having OA in the knee by
Current guidelines note that losing at least 5 percent of your body weight can improve knee function and how well you respond to treatment. For people who are overweight or have obesity, the more weight lost, the more benefits are likely to be seen.
Eating a healthy diet will help manage your weight. Eating certain foods can improve the health of your joints and reduce inflammation, too.
Research shows that vitamin D may help prevent the breakdown of cartilage.
Food source of vitamin D include:
- fortified dairy products
- oily fish
- beef liver
- sunlight exposure (don’t forget to wear sunscreen protection)
Oily fish also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and stop the breakdown of cartilage.
Vitamin C, beta carotene, and bioflavonoids may also enhance joint health.
Staying active can help prevent and manage OA, but you need to choose the right sort for your needs. Exercise may delay or prevent joint damage.
Exercise can also help you:
- lose weight
- improve pain and stiffness
- reduce stress on the knees
Muscle strengthening exercises can build up the muscles around your knee so that they are better able to absorb the shock that occurs with each step.
Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend specific exercises based on your needs.
The American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation note in their current guidelines that the following may be beneficial:
- strengthening exercises
- water activities
- tai chi
For people with knee pain, low-impact exercises may be the best option.
Aerobic activity can help you lose weight and maintain your cardiovascular system.
Topical medications are often a good option. Creams and gels that contain capsaicin are available over the counter (OTC).
Applying these products to the skin may relieve the pain and inflammation associated with OA because of their heating and cooling effects.
Oral OTC medications — such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin) — can help alleviate pain and inflammation.
If the pain becomes more severe, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, such as tramadol.
Always speak to your doctor before taking new medications, including OTC drugs, and follow the instructions on the box. Some OTC drugs and supplements can interact with other medications.
Corticosteroids can help those whose pain does not improve with exercise and over-the-counter therapies.
Injecting cortisone into the knee joint can offer fast relief from pain and inflammation. Relief can last from a few days to several months.
Using heat and cold for OA of the knee may relieve symptoms.
Heat from a warm pack or warm shower can help relieve pain and stiffness.
Applying a cold pack or ice can decrease swelling and pain. Always wrap ice or an ice pack in a towel or cloth to protect the skin.
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points in the body. It may help relieve pain and improve knee function in people with OA.
Researchers are still investigating its effectiveness, but current guidelines have tentatively recommended it.
An occupational therapist can help you find ways to minimize discomfort.
They can teach you how to protect your joints when performing day-to-day activities at home and at work.
Some people try other options for relieving knee pain with OA, but experts say there is not enough evidence to prove that they work.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a type of viscosupplementation. A healthcare provider injects HA into the knee joint.
It may reduce pain by providing extra lubrication for the knee. This may result in less friction and a greater ability to absorb shock.
Current guidelines do not recommend this treatment, as there is not enough evidence to confirm its effectiveness and safety.
Glucosamine sulfate (GS) and chondroitin sulfate (CS) supplements are available over the counter.
Some research has found that people with mild to moderate OA of the knee experienced a 20–25 percent reduction in pain when taking these.
However, current guidelines advise people not to use these supplements, as there is not enough evidence that they can help.