Treatment of osteoarthritis is aimed at preserving function, relieving pain and slowing down the damage done to joints:
• Weight loss (for overweight and obese patients) through directed exercise and appropriate diet can help relieve the load on the knee and hip joints, helping to reduce the rate of joint “wear-and-tear”.
• Physical therapy and exercise programs improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints. Proper muscle strengthening helps to take off the load from affected joints, preventing further worsening of joint damage. Patients who perform appropriate and regular exercises are known to experience much less pain and require much less medications for their condition. Do note that special directed exercises are necessary for the treatment to be beneficial.
• Medications include a variety of painkillers which are usually taken as required. Patients should avoid taking them on a regular basis, unless pain is constant. Proper physical therapy and exercise programs can help reduce the need of pain killers. Supplements such as glucosamine/chondroitin may be used, but there is little scientific evidence that they help repair damaged cartilage.
• Surgery is usually the last resort, reserved for severe arthritis that significantly limits essential daily activities (e.g. walking to the bus stop). Your family doctor may refer you to an Orthopaedic Surgeon when he/she feels that you may benefit from surgery, such as a joint replacement.