What are Nonsurgical Treatments for Arthritis?
Non-surgical treatments for arthritis are conservative care or non-operative treatment such as medications, physical therapy, and regenerative medicine employed as a first-line treatment for arthritis to reduce your discomfort and increase your mobility. They are aimed at providing symptomatic relief and improving the quality of life of the patients.
The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface called articular cartilage that allows pain-free movement in the joint. Arthritis is a general term covering numerous conditions where the joint surface or cartilage wears out. This surface can wear out for several reasons; often the definite cause is not known. Arthritis often affects the bone joints. When the articular cartilage wears out, the bone ends rub on one another and cause pain. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis.
Causes of Arthritis
There are numerous conditions that can cause arthritis but often the exact cause is never known. In general, but not always, it affects people as they get older (osteoarthritis). Other causes include:
- Trauma (fracture)
- Increased stress such as overuse and overweight
- Infection of the bone
- Connective tissue disorders
- Inactive lifestyle and obesity (overweight)
- Family history
Signs and Symptoms
Arthritic symptoms generally include swelling and pain or tenderness in the joints for more than two weeks, redness or heat in a joint, limitation of motion of a joint and early morning stiffness.
Your doctor will diagnose arthritis with a medical history, a physical exam, and X-rays of the affected joint. Computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may also be ordered to diagnose arthritis.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Arthritis
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are several non-surgical treatments to help mitigate the pain and disability that the condition can cause. These include:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs are the most common option recommended for patients suffering from arthritis. This type of drug helps decrease the amount of swelling in the affected joint, which can assist in decreasing the degree of pain patients experience in their arthritic joints. Some of the common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, aspirin, and COX-2 inhibitors that focus on mitigating joint inflammation as well as pain relief.
- Physical therapy: This is the second most common option that your physician will recommend when you start experiencing problems from arthritis. Stretching and strengthening the joint muscles can help restore strength and mobility, maintain proper joint alignment, and reduce the degree of pain you feel.
- Cold therapy: Application of ice packs over the affected joints is another inexpensive and easy non-surgical method to treat effects of arthritis. Ice packs should be applied to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day for several days. This helps to relieve swelling, inflammation, and pain related to arthritis and activity.
- Steroid injections: These injections of steroids are given directly into the affected joint for severe pain when use of NSAIDs does not bring much relief. It involves administration of corticosteroid medicine through a needle into your joint to relieve pain and inflammation. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory compounds that play a prominent role in treating inflammatory joint conditions.
- Activity modifications: Pain in an arthritic joint usually increases after activity. Activity modifications involve avoiding strenuous activities that increase the risks or symptoms. Those who participate in high-impact activities such as running or tennis may simply need to decrease the duration or intensity of activity or switch to low-impact activities such as biking or swimming.
- Lifestyle changes: It is crucial to maintain healthy lifestyle habits to manage arthritis. This involves eating a healthy diet consisting of anti-inflammatory foods, regular exercises, smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy weight, stress management with relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga, and providing ample rest to the affected joints which reduces stress on the muscles and joints, and mitigates pain and muscle spasms.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP): This is a common type of regenerative medicine therapy and involves injecting PRP directly into the affected joint in an outpatient procedure. PRP is obtained from your own blood after it has been processed to concentrate platelets and certain white blood cells in order to enhance healing and reduce inflammation in the joints.