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Diseases > Osteoarthritis | OA > Caring for OA

Caring for Osteoarthritis

People with OA can lead active and productive lives with the right kinds of treatment. There are a number of treatment options available, but a mixed or multimodal approach is common. Whatever treatment approach you choose it is essential to remember two key points: no medication is known to change the natural course of the disease. But, the right kind of treatment can help keep your joints as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

What are the Goals of Treatment of OA?

The goal of treatment is to keep the joints as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Once the damage from OA is done it cannot be reversed with medicine. We want to stop OA before it damages your joints. We also want to help keep the joints moving smoothly to help decrease joint pain and limitations in mobility and functioning.

Here’s an analogy. Think of the wear and tear on a car tire. Once a tire has gone bald, the rubber can’t be replaced. You can always put more air in the tire to optimize its functioning. But the bald rubber can’t be fixed. The same is true with OA. Once the cartilage in a joint is damaged, it can’t be fixed. Medications can help make the joint work as best as possible, but the damage can’t be reversed.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy and exercise are an important part of your overall treatment plan. The right exercises can actually improve the pain and stiffness in your joints. They can also reduce fatigue and the emotional distress of OA. Physical therapy and exercise can help protect the joints by strengthening the muscles around them. They should be done daily to derive the maximum benefit.

Moderate stretching can help reduce pain and keep the joint flexible. Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming or bicycling works your heart and increases your overall fitness. It is also an important part of keeping a healthy weight.
A trained arthritis physiotherapist can help design an exercise program tailored to you and your needs.

Protecting Your Joints

If you have OA, it’s important to protect your joints from further damage. There are two important ways you can do this:

  1. Learn your limitations – recognize activities that flare your joint pain and do what you can to avoid them.
  2. Learn how to use your joints properly – a trained arthritis physiotherapist or occupational therapist can help you align your joints properly. This can go a long way to reduce the stress on your joints. A trained physiotherapist can also help fit you with assistive devices such as walking aids, braces, or splints to support your joints.

Weight Loss

Even a modest amount of weight loss (about 10 pounds) can help reduce the load on your weight-bearing joints. This is especially important for your knees, hips and feet.

Losing weight – and keeping it off – can be a real challenge for many people. A balanced approach that includes healthy eating as well as exercise is usually the most effective. If you need help losing weight, consider joining a weight loss program or a support group. Some of these might have costs associated with them.