Treatments Other Than Drugs Or Surgery
Patient education. Top on the list of nondrug and nonsurgical approaches to osteoarthritis is patient education. You can learn about your disease and various ways to manage it from your health-care provider. Or search the library or reliable sites on the Internet. In addition, there are arthritis self-help courses available in many communities, hospitals and clinics.
Weight loss. Obesity is a known risk factor for osteoarthritis. Weight loss may help decrease the odds of developing symptoms of osteoarthritis. Researchers are investigating whether weight loss slows the progression of the disease and whether it can help to relieve symptoms. For these reasons, many health-care providers recommend that overweight patients with osteoarthritis participate in weight-management programs that include dietary counseling and exercise. This may be particularly important for patients who may need surgery, because significant obesity may increase the risk of complications.
Rehabilitation services. Several forms of rehabilitation services are available to people with osteoarthritis. These include physical therapy, occupational therapy and podiatry. A rehabilitation service may help you relieve your pain and improve your ability to function with the use of a cane, a splint, specific exercises, joint protection maneuvers, education, shock-absorbing shoes or orthotics (shoe inserts).
Exercise. Exercise can be helpful for people with some forms of osteoarthritis, such as arthritis of the knee. For example, walking programs and water aerobics may help improve functioning and relieve pain.
Application of heat or cold. A heating pad or ice pack sometimes provides comfort and relieves pain. If you use these methods, be sure to protect your skin from exposure to extreme temperatures.
Complementary and alternative medicine. There are several other safe and potentially effective ways to treat osteoarthritis without drugs or surgery that are generally considered "alternative" or "complementary" to more traditional options. These include:
- Chiropractic care. This form of therapy attempts to decrease pain and restore normal function by manipulating the structures of the body, primarily the spinal column. Manipulation of the neck, however, should be performed with caution if at all because nerve or spinal cord injury may rarely complicate such therapy.
- Acupuncture. Fine needles are inserted into the skin at certain points of the body in an attempt to relieve pain and promote well-being.
- Massage. The muscles of the body are kneaded in an effort to relieve pain.