How to Treat Osteoarthritis: A Guide to Pain Management and Improved Quality of Life


Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects a large percentage of the population. It is characterized by the thinning of the cartilage in the joints, which can cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. In this blog post, we will discuss the meaning, causes, symptoms, stages, and treatment options for osteoarthritis, as well as some tips on how to manage this condition to improve your quality of life.

Table of Contents

  • What is Osteoarthritis? (Causes + Symptoms)
  • Stages of Osteoarthritis
  • Treating Osteoarthritis
  • Managing Osteoarthritis
  • When to Seek Medical AdviceKey Takeaways

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a common condition characterized by the thinning or breakdown of cartilage in the joints. While it is not an autoimmune disease, inflammation is a core feature of this condition. Osteoarthritis can be a silent disease without any evidence of inflammation or pain. However, when someone gets it, the first sign is typically pain in the joints, with occasional swelling and limitation in function.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

The causes of osteoarthritis are complex, and there are many risk factors. Overuse of the joints in the past and being overweight are two common risk factors that produce inflammation. Other factors include injuries to joints, hypermobility in joints, and certain clinical conditions. These factors produce additional risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary depending on the joint affected. Typically, the first signs are a little pain in the joints, maybe a little swelling, and maybe a limitation in function. There may be some morning stiffness, usually less than half an hour. Sometimes there is crepitation, which is a sound in the joint when the surfaces are present there. It's typically a slowly developing condition, and that's the reason a lot of people don't know that they have it.


Stages of Osteoarthritis

Conventionally, there are four stages of osteoarthritis. The first stage is mild and typically not diagnosed. You can see it on the imaging, but a lot of the time, patients don't have symptoms.
The second one is the progression of clinical symptoms, pain, swelling, and also radiological evidence.
The third stage is when the cartilage starts thinning even more, and you can clearly see it in the imaging.
The fourth stage is bone-on-bone when there's almost no cartilage left. This is the latest stage of osteoarthritis, and surgery is typically required depending on the patient's symptoms.

Treating Osteoarthritis

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for osteoarthritis. Treatment plans are tailored to a particular condition the patient has. The treatment of osteoarthritis in the spine is different than in the knee joint or hip joint. However, there are some similarities in the treatment. Movement is essential to keep the fluid inside the joint called synovial fluid, which circulates better and feeds the cartilage. It's very important to move, and ideally, to have a special physical therapy or rehabilitation program.

Secondly, it's very important to address inflammation in the body. If there is excess weight, it triggers some inflammation in the body, which reflects on the joints. An anti-inflammatory diet and, potentially, medications for the treatment of inflammation would be optional. There are different types of medicines available, including steroid injections, corticosteroid injections, and supplements with a special gel that is placed in the joint to lubricate it.

There are also some newer techniques related to regenerative medicine. For example, platelet-rich plasma has been shown to be effective for certain joints. In the early stages of osteoarthritis, there are some additional options available for advanced osteoarthritis.

Injections are often needed to improve the quality of life. And, of course, if it's too advanced, then surgery may be an option. However, joint surgery is typically a last resort when nothing else can be done, and there is a significant limitation of function and significant pain that cannot be controlled with other means.

Managing Osteoarthritis

Managing osteoarthritis pain involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, medication, and rehabilitation. Number one is movement. It's essential to have a structured exercise program. It is recommended to have at least an hour and 150 minutes a week of exercise. Avoid any unusual or strenuous exercises, but please be consistent and persistent in your exercises.

Another way to manage osteoarthritis is by watching your diet. If you can, using an anti-inflammatory diet is ideal. Medications (including over-the-counter medications) and sometimes stronger prescription medications, injections, osteopathic manipulations or chiropractic manipulations, are available. Sometimes you can look for additional treatment options such as acupuncture.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If you are experiencing joint pain or think you may have osteoarthritis, it's important to reach out to your healthcare provider. Most of the symptoms can be managed by patients on their own, but when you feel it is starting to limit you in some way, that will be the time when you look for advice. Our hospital can help diagnose and manage your osteoarthritis symptoms to help you regain your mobility and improve your quality of life.

Key Takeaways

  • Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects many people.
  • While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are many treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve your quality of life.
  • With the right treatment plan and lifestyle modifications, you can regain your mobility and enjoy your favorite activities once again.
  • If you are experiencing joint pain or other symptoms of osteoarthritis, don't hesitate to reach out to our team of healthcare providers for personalized and effective treatment options.

Pain Medicine at Western Reserve Hospital — 100% Patient Centered Pain Treatment

You don’t have to suffer from unbearable joint pain. At the Center for Pain Medicine at Western Reserve Hospital we provide the latest innovations in comprehensive pain treatment. When chronic pain sets in, your life shrinks to fit your pain. Your health, work, and relationships suffer. You become less active. Often, you cannot sleep or suffer from depression. Living with chronic pain is hard, and the anxiety, stress, and anger that accompany it can make the pain even worse. The pain specialists at the Center for Pain Medicine at Western Reserve Hospital can help you conquer your pain with sophisticated new treatments and compassionate, professional care. Contact us at (330) 971-7246​ to schedule an appointment and begin the journey to pain relief today.