Osteoarthritis is a painful condition caused by deterioration of the cartilage between joints. As a result of this deterioration, there is no cushion to protect bones from rubbing against each other, and pain, stiffness and loss of movement results.
Osteoarthritis progresses through several stages from loss of elasticity to serious inflammation and joint damage.
Symptoms include soreness in joints after long periods of use or when one is inactive, stiffness during inactivity or in the morning that is alleviated by activity, and pain in joints that is less in the morning and worsens by the end of the day.
A treatment plan may include osteoarthritis drugs for osteoarthritis as well as exercise, weight control if necessary and, sometimes, physical therapy as well.
Pain relief for osteoarthritis is one goal of a treatment plan that should also include increasing mobility and slowing the progression of the disease. In most cases, the first medications to be recommended are over the counter analgesics.
While analgesics relieve pain, they do not have an effect on inflammation or swelling. However, for pain relief alone, they are often chosen because they tend to be effective with few side effects.
In some cases, topical analgesics are used directly on painful joints to alleviate pain. Nutritional supplements, specifically glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have also been found to be effective ways to provide pain relief for osteoarthritis.
Other drugs for osteoarthritis include NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which reduce inflammation and swelling in addition to alleviating pain. Over the counter NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and others. Cox-2 medications are prescription NSAIDs that do not cause the stomach upset and irritation common with long-term use of over the counter NSAIDs.
Pain relief using osteoarthritis drugs can sometimes be achieved with injections of glucocorticoids. These are steroids that provide fast pain relief when injected directly into joints. Such injections are usually reserved for people with moderate to severe pain who do not respond to oral analgesics.
In addition to medications and supplements, pain relief for osteoarthritis can be achieved through exercise to improve the mobility of joints. Also, people with osteoarthritis who are overweight can alleviate pressure that contributes to pain in the joints by losing weight. In some cases, physical therapy can help to alleviate pain and mobilize joints as well.
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