The treatment of osteoarthritis must be adapted to the patient, and the degree of his erosion, and should begin with a conservative treatment that is neither medicinal nor surgical. Sometimes, a number of care-givers need to be involved, including a physical therapist, occupational therapist, dietician, nurse and doctor.
There are variables that need to be taken into account, when planning the treatment, such as: frequency and strength of the pain, the severity of the x-ray findings, the state of the muscles and the axis of the damaged joint. In addition, the body weight must be taken into consideration, and the possibility of reducing weight as part of the treatment.
The program for the treatment of osteoarthritis is not determined by the findings of the x-ray. Even when the x-ray shows a gap in the joint, and there is evidence of the growth of osteophytes (bone projections) which point to erosion, there is not always pain, or restriction of movement in the joint, therefore, the treatment must be adapted to the level of the damaged joint’s functioning, the physical symptoms of erosion, and the patient’s reaction to different forms of treatment.
Change of lifestyle as a method of treating osteoarthritis
The forms of intervention that have been studied, and found to be effective for a mild level of osteoarthritis, include changes in lifestyle, such as weight reduction, and regular, gentle physical activity.
Loss of weight reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis, and improves the symptoms in an existing disease. It is possible that the improvement will not be seen in an x-ray, but there are studies which show evidence of the improvement in the state of the cartilage in an MRI, or blood test.
Physical activity is important in preventing the progress of existing erosion. Exercise must be gentle, with a combination of exercises in a permanent format, as recommended by a physical therapist, while preventing stress to the damaged joints. Sport, which involves physical contact between players should be avoided, because of the risk of injury (tears to the meniscus or ligament) which, it is known, increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis at a more advanced age.
Weakness of the hip muscles is likely to reduce the body’s ability to spread the burden on the knee joint properly, and to cause instability in the joint, and to lead to the development of osteoarthritis in the knee. Strengthening of the hip muscles can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis developing in the knee.