An X-ray by a medical doctor is the most common way that Osteoarthritis is diagnosed and determined from other types of arthritis. An X-ray or MRI can pinpoint joint damage and provide a better examination of the joint and surrounding tissues. If unsure, your doctor may perform a blood test or remove a sample of joint fluid to test and rule out other forms of arthritis.
Once osteoarthritis is determined by your doctor, a treatment plan, including regular physical activity, weight loss, physical therapy, weight or strengthening exercises, hot and cold compresses, and prescription medication, injections, or assistive devices (like a cane), or surgery may be recommended. Individual patient treatment plans vary, depending on a variety of factors like weight, activity level, age, pre-existing health and medical history, and seriousness of the condition.
Physical activity is vital for increasing joint movement as well as for strengthen the muscles that surround the joints. Most treatment plans will recommend, low impact exercise such as walking, swimming, and gentle yoga to strengthen the muscles, but reduce impact on weight-bearing joints like the knee.
Common over-the-counter medications for treat osteoarthritis pain include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen, as well as topical creams, rubs, or sprays. Patients with severe osteoarthritis pain should seek a prescription anti-inflammatory medication from their doctor. In very severe cases, steroid or hyaluronic acid injections can be administered directly into the affected joint several times a year.
As a final resort, when osteoarthritis pain is so intense that it encumbers lifestyle and cannot be relieved with any other treatment, doctors may consider the following surgeries:
1. Arthroscopic Surgery
Typically performed on knees and shoulders of OA sufferers, Arthroscopy surgery removes and cleans the damaged cartilage from around the joint and repairs surrounding tissues.
2. Joint Replacement
This surgery invasively replaces the damaged joint with an artificial one and is only considered when OA pain inhibits function and quality of life. In many cases, an artificial joint will diminish pain and return basic movement and function to the joint. The most common joint replacements are hips and knees, but elbows, ankles, fingers, and shoulders can also be replaced.