Arthritis Home > Osteoarthritis Treatment

The goals of treatment for osteoarthritis are to improve joint care, control pain, and achieve a healthy lifestyle. To that end, treatment methods include exercise, weight control, pain-relief techniques and medications, and, in some cases, surgery. Your healthcare provider can discuss your treatment options and help determine which approach is best for you.

An Overview of Osteoarthritis Treatments

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, various therapies can help people manage symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, the person's general health, and other factors.
 
Treatment for osteoarthritis is generally focused on treating pain and improving function. There are usually four goals:
 
  • Improve joint care through rest and exercise
  • Control pain with medicine and other measures
  • Maintain an acceptable body weight
  • Achieve a healthy lifestyle.
     
Most successful osteoarthritis treatment programs involve a combination of methods tailored to the person's needs, lifestyle, and health. These treatments can include:
 
  • Exercise
  • Weight control
  • Rest and joint care
  • Medicines
  • Other pain-relief techniques
  • Surgery
  • Alternative therapies.
     

Exercise as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis research has shown that exercise is one of the best osteoarthritis treatments. Exercise can improve mood and outlook, decrease pain, increase flexibility, improve the heart and blood flow, maintain weight, and promote general physical fitness. Exercise is also inexpensive and, if done correctly, it has few negative side effects.
 
The amount and form of exercise will depend on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has already been done (see Arthritis and Exercise).
 
You can use exercises to keep strong and limber, extend your range of movement, and reduce your weight. A few of the different types of exercises used to treat osteoarthritis include:
 
  • Strength exercises: These exercises can be performed with exercise bands, which are inexpensive devices that add resistance
  • Aerobic activities: These exercises keep your lungs and circulation system in shape
  • Range-of-motion activities: These activities keep your joints limber
  • Agility exercises: These exercises can help you maintain daily living skills
  • Neck and back strength exercises: These exercises can help you keep your spine strong and limber.
     
Ask your healthcare provider or physical therapist what exercises are best for you. You should also ask for guidelines on exercising when a joint is sore or if swelling is present. Also ask if you should do any or all of the following:
 
  • Use pain-relieving drugs, such as analgesics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to make exercising easier
  • Use ice after exercising.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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