ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Managing Osteoarthritis Pain

Updated on May 22, 2015

Osteoarthritis in the Hands

Source

Osteoarthritis is a chronic and very painful disease. Living with the pain is a constant battle. Because there is no cure, pain relief is intermittent at best. However, there are things patients can do to keep their pain manageable.

I have suffered with osteoarthritis since I turned 20. I’m now 34, and I’ve been in chronic pain for all of those 14 years. However, I have learned a great deal about managing my pain.

I spent many hours researching medical treatments and natural remedies for osteoarthritis. What I found was a number of different treatments from both conventional and alternative medicine.

Definition of Osteoarthritis

In order to treat the disease, we need to know what it is. The word osteoarthritis, often abbreviated as OA, literally means bone and joint inflammation, and it is caused by the degeneration of the joints. This is usually caused by wear and tear which is usually the result of the aging process, but it can also be caused by injury or trauma.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 30 million Americans most of which are women. It can affect any joint, but typically affects the joints that are weight bearing such as:

  • Neck (cervical osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative disc disease)
  • Spine
  • Hips
  • Knees

The hands, particularly the fingers, are also a common area affected by osteoarthritis. This is mainly because of the constant use of the phalanges (fingers) in our daily life.

OA results in the degeneration of articular cartilage and subchondral bone. As the articular cartilage degenerates, the subchondral bones (the ends that join to create the joint) begin to rub against each other causing friction.

Over time, this friction causes the bones to become worn down essentially compressing the joint. In the later stages, this can cause inflammation, which exacerbates the problem and the pain.

Diagram of a Joint

Source

Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis

Generally speaking, osteoarthritis is diagnosed based on the history acquired from the patient as well as the doctor’s clinical evaluation. This is when it is extremely helpful if the patient knows exactly what his or her symptoms are. Common symptoms of OA include:

  • Pain in the joints (usually the initial symptom that leads most people to see a doctor)
  • Stiffness in the joints
  • Locking (this is essentially a joint getting stuck and needing a bit of manipulation to free it; it is caused by osteophytes, also known as bone spurs)
  • Reduced range of motion of the joints
  • Cracking and creaking sounds when moving, especially after a long period of rest such as sitting or sleeping
  • Swelling in the joints

There are times when x-rays may be used to confirm the diagnosis. MRIs can also be beneficial in finding the root cause of osteoarthritis if something other than aging is suspected.

Source

Conventional Treatments for Osteoarthritis

The most common treatment for osteoarthritis is over - the – counter pain medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (Naproxen Sodium) or aspirin.

For more severe cases, doctors may prescribe pain killers or anti-inflammatories such as:

  • Vicodin (hydrocodone)
  • Ultram (tramadol)
  • Celebrex (celecoxib)
  • Voltaren (diclofenac)
  • Hyaluronic acid shots into the affected joint(s)

Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Source

Steroids are also used fairly often to treat the inflammation of osteoarthritis which helps to alleviate the pain. Prednisone is the most common choice for this purpose.

There are a number of other options for OA that are typically used in tandem with medications. These include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Hot compresses or cold packs
  • Assistive devices and orthotics
  • Changing the way common routines are performed
  • Surgery, including joint replacement

Alternative Pain Management

There are a number of different “alternative” treatments for osteoarthritis; however, there is only one treatment that I have found to be the most beneficial: exercise.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis in which exercise exacerbates the symptoms, osteoarthritis responds very well to exercise as a treatment. This is because regular exercise keeps the joints moving freely and prevents stiffening.

Exercise also allows immune cells to travel through the body faster. This gives the immune system a chance to remove the cellular “trash” that builds up in the synovial fluid surrounding the joints. Synovial fluid helps prevent the degeneration of the articular cartilage by acting as a lubricant as well as a shock absorber for most of our weight bearing joints like the knees.

Another often overlooked treatment is vitamin therapy. For example, vitamin C facilitates the removal of cellular trash by the immune system. It’s also required in the production of collagen which makes up most of the cells in our body including cartilage.

Niacin is also beneficial in treating osteoarthritis. Dr. William Kaufman, M.D., PH.D. conducted a number of studies on the effects of niacin on both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

What he found was astonishing. Once the right dosage of niacin was found (which varied widely from patient to patient) their mobility was restored and they were practically pain free.

For more information on niacin treatment, the book Niacin: The Real Story by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., Andrew Saul, Ph.D., and Harold Foster, Ph.D., is an excellent resource.

Making a healthy lifestyle change that includes changing the diet by eating less meat and dairy and more vegetables and adding in a regular exercise routine can go a long way to both treating and preventing osteoarthritis.

However, as with any change, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor to make sure it is appropriate and beneficial for you.

© Copyright 2012 - 2015 by Melissa "Daughter of Maat" Flagg ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting read--thanks for encouragement to stick with exercise and careful eating/supplements. Just looked up info re getting niacin naturally and am looking forward to checking out the book.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
      Author

      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Hubert, I've heard from a number of different people that exercise seems to exacerbate their osteoarthritis, and I think that's because their osteoarthritis is in the later stages. In the beginning, exercise can alleviate symptoms and help prevent further degeneration, but in the later stages osteoarthritis acts more like rheumatoid in that excess movement will just cause more inflammation. That's my theory anyway :D Thanks for commenting!!

    • profile image

      Hubert Williams 5 years ago

      I also suffer from this painful condition. All of your remedies help, except exercise. Although it is a recognized and effective treatment for many, exercise increases my pain and swelling. While taking physical therapy I left in worse shape than I arrived. Great article.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
      Author

      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thanks Pamela!! Niacin will most likely help, but I'd recommend starting with small doses and you'll have to take it several times a day to benefit from it. :D

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
      Author

      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you Hendrik, please let me know if these suggestions help. I know they have helped me tremendously!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      This an excellent article on osteoarthritis. I have osteoarthritis and lupus arthritis. I didn't know niacin would help. I have had surgery on my hands, feet and wrists due to these diseases. I have made the same diet changes you suggested, and that does help. Thanks for such good information. Voted up and shared.

    • HendrikDB profile image

      HendrikDB 5 years ago

      Thanks. I am a sufferer and will certainly try your advice.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)