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Arthritis treatment options

What are the treatments for arthritis?

Treatment for arthritis will depend on the type of arthritis - such as osteoarthritis (wear and tear), rheumatoid (autoimmune) - and individual symptoms.

Treatment may include:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physiotherapy, exercise
  • Medication for pain
  • Medication for inflammation
  • Surgery for joint damage.

Treatments for osteoarthritis can help relieve pain and stiffness, and for rheumatoid arthritis, the goal is to help slow its progression and reduce joint damage.

Joint protection

An occupational therapist or physiotherapist can help protect the joints from further damage, usually after a referral from a GP.

This could involve strengthening exercises or assistive devices, such as walking sticks.

Advice may be given on making daily tasks easier, such as installing grab bars, and special equipment for certain tasks like putting on socks or opening jars.

Arthritis medication

To reduce pain and inflammation in some cases of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended.

Other painkillers may be used.

Severe joint pain may be helped with steroid injections directly into the joint.

Biological therapies may be recommended to slow rheumatoid arthritis progression.

For septic arthritis, antibiotics will usually be given. Excess fluid may also be drained from the joints.

Specific arthritis treatment will depend on individual circumstances.

Surgery for arthritis

Operations or procedures may be recommended to reduce arthritis symptoms and improve joint mobility or function.

Synovectomy is an operation to remove damaged connective tissue lining joint cavities, including in the knee. Healthy tissue should grow back in its place.

For the neck or foot, affected bones may be surgically removed or fused together.

Joint replacement operations may be an option in severe cases, such as hips and shoulder joints.

The damaged bone is replaced with steel or plastic replacements.

All operations carry risks as well as the planned benefits, and these will be discussed before procedures go ahead.

Arthritis pain management

Help for arthritis pain includes medication, but cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other approaches may also be appropriate.

These programmes focus on improving a person's emotional and psychological well-being by teaching them how to relax and go about daily activities at a realistic pace. This can also help with stress and anxiety caused by arthritis and any limitations a person may have.

Therapy may also include imaging, relaxation, distraction and problem-solving.

At-home remedies for arthritis

Home care for arthritis pain includes rest and heat therapy.

Lifestyle changes may be recommended, such as losing weight if overweight or obese.

Smokers will also be urged to quit.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 23, 2016

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