Arthritis - Treatment

The first line of treatment for most forms of arthritis is medication to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain. Aspirin, acetaminophen (pronounced uh-see-tuh-MIN-uh-fuhn, trade name Tylenol), and ibuprofen (pronounced i-byoo-PRO-fuhn, trade names Advil, Motrin) are all effective in this regard. In fact, people with mild cases of arthritis can often control their condition satisfactorily simply with one of these drugs.

In more severe cases of arthritis, stronger medications may be required. The most common of these is one of the corticosteroids (pronounced KOR-ti-ko-steer-oids). The corticosteroids are very effective in the treatment of pain, swelling, and inflammation. However, they have some serious long-term side effects and should be used only when milder medications are not effective.

A variety of other medications have been used against arthritis also. These drugs include gold compounds, D-penicillamine (pronounced pen-i-SIL-uhmeen), and sulfasalazine (pronounced SULL-fuh-SAL-uh-zeen). Medications used to treat malaria can also be helpful. These drugs have potentially dangerous side effects and should be used with caution.

Rest and supportive devices may also be important in the treatment of arthritis. When the pain becomes too great, patients may be advised to take to their bed and stay there until they experience relief. They may also be provided with various protective measures, such as neck braces and collars, crutches, canes, hip braces, and knee supports.

Physical therapy can also be an important component of treatment programs. Physical therapists can teach patients how to exercise their affected joints. Exercise may reduce the rate at which the joints are worsening. It may increase the patient's balance, flexibility, and range of motion. Physical therapy can also consist of massage, moist hot packs, and soaking in a hot tub.

In the most severe cases, surgery may be required. Some surgical techniques that can be used include:

  • Replacement of a damaged joint
  • Fusion (joining together) of spinal bones
  • Scraping or removing damaged bone from a joint
  • Removal of a bone chip to allow realignment of a joint

Alternative Treatment

Some types of food intolerance may contribute to both RA and OA. Patients should try to find out the foods to which they are allergic and eliminate those foods from their diets. In general, nutritionists recommend a diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates (starches) and low in fats and refined foods.

Some food supplements have been found to be effective in treating arthritis. One substance that is commonly recommended is a combination of glucosamine (pronounced gloo-KO-suh-meen) and chondroitin (pronounced kon-DRO-i-tin) sulfate. This product is thought to help repair cartilage. Other nutritional supplements that have been suggested include vitamins A, B, C, and E, and the minerals selenium and zinc.

Traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes the use of various herbs for the treatment of arthritis. These herbs include turmeric, ginger, feverfew, devil's claw, Chinese thoroughwax, licorice, lobelia, and cramp bark.

Naturopathic treatment may include hydrotherapy (water therapy), diathermy (deep-heat therapy), nutritional supplements, and various herbs.

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