The best arthritis treatment options include medications, surgery, heat, exercise, rest, and alternative therapies. Treatment is aimed to minimise the pain.
There is no single treatment plan or medication that can help everyone who has arthritis as there are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Your doctor will take into consideration the specific cause of arthritis, the joints that are affected, severity, and how the condition affects your daily activities while deciding the treatment plan. Treatment is aimed to minimise your pain, improve the function of your joints and prevent further disability. Read to know more on treatment of arthritis.
- Pain medications: Several drugs are used to treat pain associated with arthritis. Drugs for treatment of arthritic pain fall into three categories: the non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), narcotic pain medications, and steroids. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, mefenamic acid, and diclofenac are good analgesics and most often prescribed to relieve pain. However in high doses or when given for long time they can cause gastric irritation or even gastric bleeding.
- Biologics: These medications (etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab, rituximab) are the most recent breakthrough for the treatment of different types of arthritis. These drugs may be used alone or in combination with another drug to treat certain types of arthritis (rheumatoid, psoriatic, juvenile idiopathic and ankylosing spondylitis). They can significantly improve your quality of life.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These drugs (gold salts, penicillamine, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate) have been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune causes of arthritis. They can help to slow the progression of arthritis and improve the quality of life. However most of these drugs have severe side effects and require frequent blood tests to monitor for toxicity and side effects.
- Immunosuppressants: These drugs (azathioprine or cyclophosphamide) are used in patients with severe arthritis who fail to respond to other medications.
- Surgery: Most patients with arthritis are treated with medications but patients with severe pain or joint deformity may need surgery. Surgeries that are performed today include joint replacement (replacing the joint with an artificial joint), tendon reconstruction (reconstructing damaged tendons) and synovectomy (removal of the inflamed tissue). A joint replacement surgery can improve the mobility of a patient.
- Other therapies: Rest, heat and physical therapy are important adjuncts in the treatment of pain in arthritis along with drug therapy. Physical therapy helps to increase muscle strength, improve mobility and reduce pain. Pain may be relieved with a local application of moist heat. Besides this, a healthy diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle are recommended. These help the patients retain mobility and muscle strength, maintain or lose weight, sleep better, and develop a positive attitude.
- Alternative treatment: Some natural remedies which are probably effective for arthritis pain include Glucosamine and Chondroitin, MSM (a natural sulfur compound that acts as an anti-inflammatory), SAMe, Boswellia (an herbal extract that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory), and turmeric.
There is no cure for arthritis and pain of arthritis is chronic and may last a lifetime. Hence learning how to manage your pain is important to maintain a good quality of life.
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