The underlying cause often cannot be cured. The goal of treatment is to:
- Reduce pain and inflammation
- Improve function
- Prevent further joint damage
Lifestyle changes are the preferred treatment for osteoarthritis and other types of joint swelling. Exercise can help relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength. Your health e team can help you design an exercise program that is best for you.
Exercise programs may include:
- Low-impact aerobic activity (also called endurance exercise) such as walking
- Range of motion exercises for flexibility
- Strength training for muscle tone
Your provider may suggest physical therapy. This might include:
- Heat or ice.
- Splints or orthotics to support joints and help improve their position. This is often needed for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Water therapy.
Other things you can do include:
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from a flare-up more quickly, and may even help prevent flare-ups.
- Avoid staying in one position for too long.
- Avoid positions or movements that place extra stress on your sore joints.
- Change your home to make activities easier. For example, install grab bars in the shower, the tub, and near the toilet.
- Try stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, which contain important vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, and herring), flaxseed, rapeseed (canola) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Apply capsaicin cream over your painful joints. You may feel improvement after applying the cream for 3 to 7 days.
- Lose weight, if you are overweight. Weight loss can greatly improve joint pain in the legs and feet.
- Use a cane to reduce pain from hip, knee, ankle, or foot arthritis.
Medicines may be prescribed along with lifestyle changes. All medicines have some risks. You should be closely followed by a doctor when taking arthritis medicines, even ones you buy over-the-counter.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is often the first medicine tried to reduce pain. Take up to 3,000 a day (2 arthritis-strength Tylenol every 8 hours). To prevent damage to your liver, do not take more than the recommended dose. Since multiple medicines are available without a prescription that also contain etaminophen, you will need to include them in the 3,000 per day maximum. Also, avoid alcohol when taking etaminophen.
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can relieve arthritis pain. However, they can carry risks when used for a long time. Possible side effects include heart attack, stroke, stomach ulcers, bleeding from the digestive tract, and kidney damage.
Depending on the type of arthritis, a number of other medicines may be prescribed:
- Corticosteroids ("steroids") help reduce inflammation. They may be injected into painful joints or given by mouth.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used to treat autoimmune arthritis and SLE
- Biologics and kinase inhibitor are used for the treatment of autoimmune arthritis. They may be given by injection or by mouth.
- For gout, certain medicines to lower uric acid levels may be used.
It is very important to take your medicines as directed by your provider. If you are having problems doing so (for example, because of side effects), you should talk to your provider. Also make sure your provider knows about your all the medicines you are taking, including vitamins and supplements bought without a prescription.
SURGERY AND OTHER TREATMENTS
In some cases, surgery may be done if other treatments have not worked and severe damage to a joint occurs.
This may include: