About 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis (OA), which is the most common type of arthritis in older people.1,2 Hands and weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips, and lower back often take the biggest hit.1,2
OA develops when the cushioning tissue in joints (cartilage) breaks down. Then bone may rub on bone, causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain. When arthritis is advanced, you may hear grinding noises or your joint may become enlarged.3
What’s the cause of osteoarthritis? It could be a combination of things. Joints can simply lose their cushioning with repeated wear and tear over time. And an injury can hasten this process. Extra pounds can also harm your joints. Sometimes OA runs in families, too.2
You can learn better ways to move to protect your joints. Your doctor may even recommend physical or occupational therapy.1 If you need a cane, make sure a professional fits it for you. You can also buy a brace or knee sleeve or special devices to help open jars or do other challenging tasks.2,4 Don’t overlook our store’s resources.
When pain flares up, it may be tempting to curl up in a ball and try to ignore it. That may be exactly the wrong thing to do. Although rest is important, moving may also help ease your pain. Some types of exercise can relieve stiffness and improve flexibility, while others promote strength or endurance. It may also help to switch to less weight-bearing activities, for example, swimming or cycling instead of running.4
If you’ve put on some extra weight, do your best to lose it. Did you know that with every pound you gain, your knees must handle four more pounds and your hips six more pounds of pressure? And, obesity may add insult to injury. That’s because body fat may release chemicals that also cause joint damage.1
What else can you do? Heat or cold may help ease the pain of arthritis. And pain medications may be essential as well. Stop by, and I can help you sort out the differences between the types of medications used for arthritis. Some require prescriptions; others do not, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.2,4
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can also be effective in treating symptoms. That’s because, with arthritis, fluid builds up when the body tries to compensate for lost cartilage. The resulting inflammation can cause pain and warmth around the joint.3
In more severe cases, you may need other types of treatment such as injections, splinting, or surgery such as a joint replacement.
As for alternative remedies, recent studies show that acupuncture may bring relief for some people. The oral supplements glucosamine and chondroitin may help with moderate to severe osteoarthritis pain. But studies in the knee show these don’t appear to improve cartilage changes.2 Whatever you do, steer clear of unproven supplements. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the public about certain products marketed as “natural” dietary supplements for conditions such as arthritis. If you’re not sure about a certain product, please ask one of our pharmacists.5
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
1. Arthritis Foundation: “Arthritis.” Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/conditions-treatments/disease-center/osteoarthritis/ Accessed March 6, 2013.
2. National Institute on Aging: “Arthritis Advice.” Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/arthritis-advice Accessed March 6, 2013.
3. AAOS: “Arthritis of the Hand.” Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00224 Accessed March 6, 2013.
4. AAOS: “Arthritis of the Knee.” Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00212
5. FDA: “Dangerous Supplement Now Sold as ‘WOW’.” Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm333188.htm Accessed March 6, 2013.