There are a variety of treatment options available to arthritis sufferers, but it can be overwhelming to find just the right treatment for your unique needs. Our pain management doctors are highly experienced in helping our patients develop a personalized strategy for their pain. Arthritis treatment focus on relieving your symptoms and increasing the function of the affected joints. It is common that you and your doctor will work together to discover which treatment, or combination of treatments, brings you relief. Here are some of the treatment options your physician may recommend.
The specific type of arthritis you have will dictate which medications may be effective to treat your symptoms. The medications that are used in arthritis treatments include:
- Analgesics: These medications can relieve pain, but they do not reduce inflammation. These can be found in over-the-counter medications, but some may be prescribed. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol), tramadol (Ultram), oxycodone (Percocet, Oxycontin), and hydrocodone (Norco).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs can reduce pain and inflammation, but oral NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, increase the risk of a heart attack, or the risk of stroke. If you are using NSAIDs, be sure to work with your doctor to monitor your health. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve. There are also NSAIDs that are available by prescription. Some NSAIDs may be available as a topical cream to be applied directly to the joint.
- Counterirritants: Some arthritis relieving creams and ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, which can be applied to the skin. This can disrupt the pain signals from the joint itself.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): If you have rheumatoid arthritis, DMARDs can be an effective treatment. It reduces the ability of your immune system to attack your joints, which can help ease the symptoms of arthritis. These drugs include methotrexate (Trexall) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).
- Biologic response modifiers: These are often used alongside DMARDs, and these genetically engineered drugs are designed to target the protein molecules involved in the problematic immune response. Two of these medications are etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade).
- Corticosteroids: These medications suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. These can be taken orally or injected directly into the affected joints. Prednisone and cortisone are two types of corticosteroids.
Gentle, guided exercises can help some types of arthritis. Physical therapy can help increase the range of motion and strengthen supporting muscles to ease joint pain. Your physical therapist may also recommend splints or braces to help relieve pain during daily activities.
Medications and physical therapy are usually the first options to try, but if these more conservative treatments cannot bring relief, surgery may be recommended to help. Surgical treatments for arthritis include:
- Joint repair surgery: In some cases, the joint surfaces may be smoothed out or realigned to reduce pain and improve joint function. Often, these surgeries are performed arthroscopically, which means they are less invasive and only involve a small incision.
- Joint replacement surgery: This procedure involves removing the joint that is damaged and replacing it with an artificial joint system. These are very common surgeries for hips and knees affected by arthritis.
- Joint fusion surgery: This surgery is an option for smaller joints, such as the wrist, ankle, and fingers. The surgeon will remove the damaged ends of the bones and join the new ends so they heal together into a solid unit.
Making simple changes to your daily life can greatly affect your arthritis, and can naturally reduce your pain and help increase function. Some of these changes may be:
- Weight loss: Extra pounds can add extra wear and tear on your joints, which can lead to arthritis or cause the condition to advance. A healthy weight loss program can help improve your mobility and prevent further joint injuries.
- Exercise: The benefits of exercise are well known. Being active regularly can improve joint flexibility. Swimming or water aerobics can be more comfortable for arthritis sufferers since the buoyancy of the water can reduce the impact on joints.
- Heat packs and cold packs: Both heat and ice can be helpful to relieve joint pain.
- Assistive devices: Walkers, canes, raised toilet seats, gripping tools, and other devices can help ease the strain of daily tasks. In addition to making your tasks easier, assistive devices can help protect your joints.
Some people find that alternative remedies can be effective in relieving arthritis pain. There is developing evidence that suggests that there may be therapeutic value to these therapies, but you should always consult your physician before seeking an alternative remedy.
- Acupuncture: Using fine needles, an acupuncturist will stimulate specific points on the skin to reduce many types of pain.
- Glucosamine: Studies have been mixed about the effectiveness of glucosamine, but it may relieve arthritis pain, especially for those with severe to moderate pain.
- Yoga and Tai Chi: The gentle movements and stretches of yoga and tai chi can help improve joint flexibility and range of motion in people with arthritis.
- Massage: Gentle massage can increase blood flow, and may warm affected joints, providing temporary pain relief. Let your massage therapist know what joints are painful, so they can target them.
Our Fort Meyers joint pain center uses cutting-edge treatments to help you find relief from your pain. At the Pain Medicine Group, our pain relief doctors will address your pain needs with a customized treatment approach, using the leading and most innovative treatment options.
Contact our team to schedule an appointment today by calling (888) 832-3597.