Nearly 33 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint condition that can cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling along with reduced range of motion. Osteoarthritis affects the joint surfaces, degrading the protective layer of cartilage and increasing painful inflammation and friction inside the joints.
Zaid Malik, MD, and the team at Superior Pain Relief are skilled in tailoring osteoarthritis treatment plans to help patients relieve uncomfortable symptoms and regain joint function. Because OA is so common, many people wonder if they can reverse the condition and the damage it causes. Here’s what you should know.
Osteoarthritis: The basics
Joints form where two or more bones meet. The ends of these bones are protected by a thick layer of cartilage that prevents damage and promotes smooth motion when you use the joint.
Osteoarthritis happens when joint wear and tear takes a toll on that protective layer of cartilage, causing thin or worn spots that in turn, increase friction and inflammation inside the joint. While many people develop OA in later life, younger people can develop it, too, especially if they use their joints a lot for work or other activities.
Some underlying medical problems, including obesity, increase the risk of osteoarthritis as well.
Over time, continual inflammation and joint strain increase osteoarthritis damage and the symptoms of pain, stiffness, and swelling. Sometimes, joints become deformed, and every movement can cause significant pain.
To date, there’s no cure for osteoarthritis and no treatment that can completely reverse the damage done. However, there are ways to manage OA that provide symptom relief and help slow its progression.
Incorporating low-impact activity helps promote joint flexibility and natural lubrication. Walking, bicycling, and swimming are all good choices. If you’re overweight, losing extra pounds can significantly reduce strain on weight-bearing joints.
Physical therapy uses exercises and gentle stretching to promote joint strength and flexibility, along with improving your balance and coordination. In addition to on-site therapy, you learn at-home activities you can do on your own to extend the benefits of your routine.
Oral medications help relieve both pain and inflammation. Taking these medicines as prescribed can help you stay active and make physical therapy more comfortable and effective.
Joint injections of corticosteroid medications or lubricants can help reduce inflammation and pain while improving joint function and mobility. Like oral medications, the injections can help make physical therapy more effective, too.
Bracing or assistive devices
Wearing a brace, such as a knee brace, provides additional stability to an arthritis joint while relieving painful stress and strain on the joint surface. Using a cane or walker may help, too.
When conservative options aren’t able to provide sufficient long-term relief of joint symptoms, surgery to restore the joint surface or replace the joint may be the best option.
Learn how to manage your osteoarthritis symptoms
Because osteoarthritis is a progressive disease — meaning it gets worse over time — early treatment is very important. Beginning an OA management plan as soon as possible can help prevent symptoms and slow osteoarthritis joint damage.
If you have symptoms of osteoarthritis, we can help. To find out how request an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Malik and the interventional pain management team at Superior Pain Relief today. We have several locations: in Spring, Houston, Baytown, Willis, and The Woodlands, Texas.