Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, your doctor may suggest a variety of treatment options to help relieve your symptoms. You be asked to try a combination of measures that include the following:

Weight Management

Excess weight puts additional strain on your joints, so it can make your osteoarthritis symptoms worse. Maintaining your weight within a range suggested by your doctor can help alleviate your symptoms. Make sure to talk with your doctor to devise a safe plan that helps you lose excess weight.

Regular Exercise

Exercise can help you lose weight if you need to and it can also help relieve pain and stiffness. It will also help strengthen the muscles that surround your joints. Your doctor can suggest an exercise program that takes into account your osteoarthritis as well as any additional health issues. Generally, exercises that don’t put a lot of stress on your joints will be the most beneficial. These include swimming and cycling.

Over-the-Counter Medication

Your doctor may suggest paracetamol an over-the-counter medication, to help relieve pain. Taking it regularly allows you to try to stay ahead of the pain rather than waiting until it’s severe. If a stronger painkiller is needed, you doctor may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. These medications can be taken orally or applied as a cream.

Prescription Medication

If over-the-counter painkillers don’t provide enough relief, your doctor may prescribe an opioid to help with more severe pain. He or she may also prescribe capsaicin cream, which helps block the nerves that transmit pain messages. Finally, if painkillers aren’t helpful enough, your doctor may inject corticosteroid mediation into the affected joints to reduce inflammation. The shots can’t be used very often, however, because of the risk of side effects.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

This treatment utilizes low-voltage electrical impulses to help numb nerve endings that control pain. It’s also thought to help produce endorphins, which act as a natural painkiller.

Heat or Cold Therapy

Some people who have osteoarthritis can experience relief by applying hot or cold packs to the affected joint. Experimenting with heat and cold will help you learn which one provides the greatest benefit. Just make sure to not apply hot or cold items directly to your skin. Instead, wrap a heating pad, hot water bottle, or ice pack in a towel before applying it. You can also buy special packs designed to be frozen or microwaved.


If other types of treatment aren’t effective enough, your doctor may recommend surgery. Especially if you have osteoarthritis in your hip or knees, you may be able to have the problematic joint replaced with an artificial one. If this isn’t an option, your doctor may suggest adding or removing bone near your joint. He or she may also recommend having your joint surgically fused so you experience less pain, but you’ll be unable to move it.

Although osteoarthritis can’t be cured, your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan that provides the most relief possible.