The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis most commonly occurs in weight-bearing joints, including hips, knees and ankles. The arthritis gradually breaks down the cartilage that covers the ends of each bone in a joint.
Normally, this cartilage acts as a shock absorber, providing a smooth surface between bones. With osteoarthritis, the surface becomes rough and pitted and in advanced stages may wear away completely. The resulting grinding causes inflammation, pain and restricted movement.
There is no cure for arthritis but there are non-surgical ways to manage the symptoms to provide pain relief, improve movement and increase your ability to daily activities.
- Medicines - Help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Cortisone shots - Alleviate inflammation and may relieve pain for a time. Generally, repeat injections should be limited to three or four per joint, per year.
- Hyaluronate injections - Help restore the cushioning effect and lubrication of normal synovial (joint) fluid.
- Thermal therapy - Heating pads, hot water bottles and saunas may relax muscles to reduce pain and stiffness. Ice packs may help reduce muscle spasms and swelling.
- Exercise and rest - Prolonged inactivity can worsen arthritis symptoms, but excessive or improper exercise can overwork the arthritic joint. A balanced routine of exercise and rest is best.
People who experience severe pain during activities or at night or can't work or perform other routine activities may benefit from surgical treatment.
Learn more about surgical procedures, including joint replacement.