What You Can Do

4 minute read
Alice Park

DRUGS There is still no cure for arthritis, but many medications can relieve the pain in stiff joints arthritis

Over-the-counter painkillers: For mild pain, acetaminophen should be your first choice, since it relieves discomfort without damaging the digestive tract. If pain persists, your doctor may recommend aspirin or ibuprofen, which can reduce the swelling and damage due to inflammation; anti-inflammatory drugs, however, can be harsh on the stomach

COX-2 INHIBITORS: These newer analgesics tend to cause fewer stomach problems than traditional anti-inflammatories. But they are expensive, and recent studies have linked them to heart problems

TETRACYCLINE: These antibiotics were designed to kill germs, but they can also slow erosion of the cartilage

HYALURONIC ACID: Injections of this natural lubricant, particularly in the knee, can ease pain for as long as a year

CORTICOSTEROIDS: Shots of steroids, which reduce inflammation, can provide a short-term fix for joint pain. Continued injections, however, can worsen a damaged joint by masking discomfort and enabling you to continue destructive activities. Because their pain is limited to specific joints, osteoarthritis sufferers don’t need the wider-ranging effects of corticosteroid pills

SURGERY If pain persists, surgery can either relieve the pressure on joints or replace them altogether

ARTHROSCOPY: In this minimally invasive procedure, doctors clear away dying cartilage and smooth out rough joint connections through slit-size incisions. A recent study suggested that in some cases, arthroscopic surgery was no better than sham surgery; it seems to work best when the joint is still mechanically sound

BONE FUSION: Fusing bones together with pins or plates can eliminate the pain caused by a badly damaged joint; the joint, however, will never bend again

JOINT REPLACEMENT: When the bones in a joint are damaged beyond repair, a substitute joint can in some cases be fashioned out of plastic or metal. Total hip replacement is the most common, but almost any joint, including the knee, thumb, elbow and shoulder, can be replaced

TISSUE REPAIR: Failing joints can cause surrounding muscle, ligaments and tendons to tear or rip away from bones, requiring surgery to reattach or repair them

EXERCISE Moving arthritic joints may hurt, but if you don’t exercise them regularly they can permanently freeze up

WATER WORKOUTS: The buoyancy of water can help you move stiff joints without gravity’s weight-bearing pressure

RECUMBENT BICYCLE: The reclining position takes the burden off such sensitive joints as the knees and hips

WALKING: If it doesn’t hurt too much, walking is one of the best ways to keep joints from seizing up–from the ankles to the shoulders

LOW-IMPACT AEROBICS: Any exercise that doesn’t put pounding pressure on the joints can help build up muscle and keep ligaments and tendons flexible enough to give the joints the support they need

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES If taking standard pain-relief medications makes you uncomfortable, you may want to consider some of these alternative remedies

ACUPUNCTURE: The Chinese believe it relieves pain by re-aligning life energy, known as qi; but Western doctors think the judicious placement of needles may actually work by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s own painkillers

GLUCOSAMINE: Preliminary evidence suggests that these supplements, derived from lobster and crab shells, may help relieve arthritis pain, possibly by encouraging cartilage growth

CHONDROITIN SULFATE: Chondroitin is believed to help keep cartilage from breaking down; many arthritis sufferers take it with glucosamine –By Alice Park

PREVENTION While there is no guarantee that anything you do will prevent osteoarthritis, here are some steps you can take to keep your cartilage as healthy as possible

KEEP MOVING: Flexing joints lubricates and protects them, so exercise regularly. But avoid high-stress activities that pound on knees or hips

STAY SLIM: Carrying too much weight puts extraordinary stress on the knees, hips and ankles. Shed excess pounds to take a load off the joints

BUILD MUSCLE: Joints need a strong support system; maintaining muscle tone will help stabilize knees, hips and shoulders

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