A lack of movement can speed up the breakdown of cartilage. It also weakens the muscles, which makes it even harder to move your body. So it’s very important for people who have osteoarthritis to get enough exercise and stay active. This is especially true if the knees or hips are affected.
There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis. But there are a wide range of treatments to relieve the symptoms. The most suitable choice of treatment will depend on various factors, including which joint is affected.
Only a few treatments have been reliably proven to slow down the progress of osteoarthritis or relieve the symptoms. Depending on which joint is affected, the most effective treatments include exercise therapy, rehabilitation exercises and painkillers. People who are very overweight are advised to lose weight, particularly if they have osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. Occupational therapy can be helpful in people who have osteoarthritis of the fingers or hands. For instance, they can learn how to avoid activities that put a lot of strain on the joints, or how to do them in a joint-friendly way.
Various aids, devices and gadgets can help to reduce the strain on joints too. These include walking sticks (if your knees and/or hips are affected) and special pens or devices – for instance, to help you grip objects or open things like jars and bottles (if your fingers are affected). Sometimes special splints are used to stabilize the joint too.
Many treatments have not been proven to help in people who have osteoarthritis. These include acupuncture, arthroscopy (keyhole surgery), herbal products, dietary supplements, hyaluronic acid injections, ultrasound therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
In advanced osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, the damaged parts of the joint can be partially or fully replaced with an artificial joint, known as an endoprosthesis.