Understanding Arthritis -- Diagnosis & Treatment
Arthritis Treatment: Surgery
Various forms of surgery may be needed to reduce the discomfort of arthritis or to restore mobility or joint function. Synovectomy is the removal of damaged connective tissue lining a joint cavity.
If arthritic pain and inflammation become truly unbearable, or arthritic joints become so damaged, the answer may lie in surgical replacement. Today, knee and hip joints can be replaced with reliable artificial joints made of stainless steel and plastic. Shoulder joints, as well as smaller joints in the elbows and fingers, can also be replaced.
Spinal surgery is sometimes performed for neck and lower spine arthritis. Although movement is limited after such surgery, the operations relieve excruciating pain and help prevent further damage to nerves or blood vessels.
Non-Medical Management of Arthritis Pain
Aside from medical treatments for arthritis, there are effective psychotherapeutic strategies to manage arthritic pain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that cognitive behavioral therapy, using education and behavior modification alongside relaxation techniques, is better than routine care for relieving pain associated with arthritis. Such programs focus on improving patients' emotional and psychological well-being by teaching them how to relax and conduct their daily activities at a realistic pace. Learning to overcome mental stress and anxiety can be the key to coping with the physical limitations that may accompany chronic rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Cognitive therapy may include various techniques for activity scheduling, imaging, relaxation, distraction, and creative problem-solving.
Alternative Medicine for Arthritis
A variety of alternative therapies is used for arthritis. However, none of these has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of arthritis so they may not be effective or safe. It is important to let your doctor know if you're considering these types of treatments.
While some studies suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are as effective as NSAIDs for reducing pain, swelling, and stiffness in osteoarthritis, recent large studies funded by the NIH suggest these supplements are not very helpful, except perhaps in some cases. Typical daily doses are 1,500 milligrams for glucosamine and 1,200 milligrams for chondroitin.
The antibiotic doxycycline may have some potential to delay the progression of osteoarthritis by inhibiting enzymes that break down cartilage. More research is needed to confirm these results.
The NIH considers acupuncture an acceptable alternative treatment for osteoarthritis, especially if it affects the knee. Studies have shown that acupuncture helps reduce pain, may significantly lessen the need for painkillers, and can help increase range of motion in affected knee joints.
Available over-the-counter since 1999, the supplement SAMe has been shown in some studies to be as effective for osteoarthritis pain as NSAIDs.
Fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation, lessen the need for painkillers, and possibly decrease joint stiffness. A diet low in animal and dairy fats may have similar effects. Excellent sources of fish oil include EPA/DHA capsules and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel.