Arthritis may require or not require treatment based on the severity and type. Treatment is not one kind but is a combination of many kinds that provide relief. Treatment is directed at many facets of the body and the affected parts. Treatment can be simple painkillers or surgery to excise the trouble-causing tissue. Patients are generally advised to not stress the inflamed areas. The objective of medication is to reduce the pain and not the disease itself as it cannot be cured.
The most common treatment practiced for arthritis is the application of heat or cold. Cold packs and hot packs can provide relief to the inflammation and a soothing effect to the patient. This complements pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Some relief can be obtained in the fingers if the hand is kept warm. Some people wear gloves to bed so that their hand is warm and it feels better in the morning. Exercises suggested by a physiotherapist or an orthopedic can help the joints. Relief is also obtained from pain by dipping hands in wax. Not every arthritis patient gets relief from this method. Wax can be obtained from candles and can be melted and reused as well. It has to be applied over the hands and allowed to harden and then peeled off.
A common pain killer is an acetaminophen that is popularly used as Tylenol. It is only used for mild pain or arthritis. Acetaminophen is a safe medication and is available over the counter. It has no side effects and can be taken by patients of all ages. Pain can also be combated through the use of creams. Again they are used only for mild pain and cannot be used for severe flare-ups. Some popular ones used are diclofenac, salicin, and menthol.
Cortisone given orally or injected has been shown to reduce the severity of inflammation drastically. Cortisone is given in many forms but it is not suggested for regular use. Treatment with cortisone on regular basis can harm bones.
Dietary supplements are also suggested to reduce the effects of pain. Food rich in omega 3 fatty acids has been used for a long to tackle pain and provide relief. Such foods include walnuts, fish oils taken as capsules.
Sometimes obesity can lead to worsening of pain. An obese person is likely to experience more pain than a person who is not. Arthritis pain can be made to have a lesser effect on the patient if he is made to lose weight and hence weight loss is a part of treatment. Particularly, inflammation of the knee can be more painful when a person is obese. Hence diet regulation is very important.
But the pain that doesn’t lessen even after weight loss is tackled with medication like Hyalgan which is injected into the joint directly. This can provide relief immediately but they are expensive. They can also be administered by arthroscopy techniques.
For Rheumatoid arthritis, the immunosuppressant is required to help alleviate the symptoms and pain. Since it is the immune system that is causing all the trouble, it has to be suppressed. The most commonly used medication is Rheumatrex. These medications should be taken only after consultation with the physician. If the excess is taken then the immune system is compromised and the body is vulnerable to other infections which can complicate the health condition. Too little a dose may not be enough for reducing the pain. For autoimmune disorders, a newer kind of medication is now available that can target certain components of the immune system rather than suppressing all elements which constitute an immune response.
Surgery is the last option and is performed when all methods of pain relief have yielded no result. With advancements in technology, surgery has become less invasive. It doesn’t involve a big cut anymore. An instrument called an arthroscope is used to view the inflammation. This tube-like instrument has a camera at one end and is made of optical fibers. It also has provisions for cutting and cauterizing. The inflamed tissue is removed from the joint. If a knee joint can’t be treated with surgery then an artificial joint is used to substitute the biological joint. This procedure called arthroplasty is now common and is by far the best treatment for arthritis of the knee. Other joints like the hip can also be replaced with synthetic ones.