Options for Treating Your Osteoarthritis

May 20, 2016

Options for Treating Your Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects nearly 27 million Americans and over one-third of all people over 65. After you have determined that your joint pain is from osteoarthritis, it is time to find the best treatment options for you. There is no cure, but there are methods available that can help control your osteoarthritis symptoms and allow you to live a healthy and active life.

Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis


Lifestyle changes are one of the best ways to help control your osteoarthritis. By making adjustments or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the impact the symptoms have on your life can be lessened or at least prevented from worsening.

Exercise - Physical activity is essential when trying to control osteoarthritis symptoms. Many people think that exercise will make their symptoms worse, but that is typically not the case. Exercising helps to increase strength and flexibility, which improves symptoms.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight - Being at a healthy weight is also important when you have osteoarthritis because extra weight puts more pressure and stress on your joints. Exercise will help you lose or maintain a healthy body weight as well as eating a diet lower in calories and high in fruits and veggies.


Therapy is another option that works hand in hand with exercise because it can help to increase strength and flexibility of the affected joints.

Physical therapy - PT is used to create a specialized and personalized program to help strengthen your muscles and increase the flexibility around your joints, which should reduce pain.

Occupational therapy - OT is used to help discover new ways of doing things that will make living with osteoarthritis easier. This includes anything from large-gripped toothbrushes to a bench in the shower; anything that can be done throughout the day to reduce the stress put on your joints.

Movement therapies - Tai chi and yoga can also be considered therapies – movement therapies. They involve stretching and deep breathing, which can help reduce pain from osteoarthritis and improve movements.


Medications are often used, and often used in conjunction with other methods, to control osteoarthritis symptoms. There is pain and anti-inflammatory medications available, and they come in many forms such as pills or creams.

Oral medications - These are recommended often and include pain and anti-inflammatory medications such as

  • Tylenol
  • Advil
  • Motrin
  • Aleve

Topical treatments - These treatments can be over the counter or prescribed by your doctor. They are either non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug creams or capsaicin cream that work as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever or a nerve block. To use, simply rub a small amount of the cream or lotion on the skin of the affected joint(s). It usually takes some time before you begin to notice any difference – a few days to a few weeks.

Injections - Though injections are not often the first choice to treat osteoarthritis, there are two options available. This first is cortisone injections, which is a corticosteroid medication injected into the affected joint. They should only be done when other treatment methods have not been working and no more than 3-4 times per year because they can actually increase joint damage.

Lubrication injections are another option. For this, an injection of hyaluronic acid, a similar component to what is found in joint fluid, is put into the affected joint to provide cushioning and lubrication.  There is a question if it is actually significantly helpful.


Surgery should only really be used when other treatment options are not working. There are different options for different situations.

Joint replacement - This is probably the most well-known surgery and is when a surgeon removes the damaged parts of your joint and replaces them with plastic and metal parts. They tend to wear out faster than your original bones, so they may need to be replaced again.

Realigning bones - This is another option, which involves either removing or adding a wedge of bone, so your body weight is shifted away from the worn part of the joint.

Alternative Options

There are additional options available that may help treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis. They include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin
  • Avocado-soybean unsaponifiable
  • Rubefacients
  • Massage
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Relaxation techniques

There are a number of natural techniques that can be used to treat osteoarthritis, but many of them are not proven to work.

The specific treatment that you and your doctor decide on depends on how severe your osteoarthritis is and your exact situation. This will influence exactly how you decide to tackle your symptoms. Find the solution that prevents your pain from interfering with living an enjoyable life.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does osteoarthritis impact daily life?

Depending on the severity of the condition, osteoarthritis affects people differently. Most of the time the wearing of joints occurs very gradually over the course of many years. Mild cases are relatively able to be managed and constitute only a minor nuisance while living day-to-day.

More severe cases can limit mobility or the willingness to participate in daily activities due to the pain and discomfort resulting from osteoarthritis. This condition can make it hard to complete tasks involved with self-care, often discouraging people from working to treat osteoarthritis with healthy exercise.

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How is Rheumatoid Arthritis different from Osteoarthritis?

With Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the body attacks the lining of joints as if it were trying to fight an injury or disease. Just like a cut on your finger can cause inflammation, RA leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints that can last for hours at a time. Similar to other autoimmune diseases, people with RA will often feel tired or feverish. To treat this condition, doctors will often prescribe DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), which can help with inflammation and tiredness.

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