Osteoarthritis, also know as degenerative arthropathy, is a disease that affects the joints causing pain and stiffness. It is the most common form of arthritis and occurs in people all over the world.
Osteoarthritis pain relief is a serious issue for patients, who are searching for a better quality of life. In the following lines you can thoroughly immerse yourself in the plethora of options offered today for the relief of chronic patients.
Treatment varies depending on how severe the pain is. A combination of over-the-counter analgesics and self-help methods is usually sufficient. However, if the pain is very severe, your doctor might suggest some of the following treatments:
- Capsaicin cream
- Strong analgesics (e.g. tramadol, for severe pain)
- Cortisone injections in painful joints
- Transdermal electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Surgical treatment, which includes joint replacement
There is no cure for osteoarthritis yet. But there are treatments that alleviate the symptoms and reduce the likelihood of disease exacerbation.
Pills and creams – Capsaicin cream – Strong analgesics
Analgesics relieve pain and stiffness, but do not affect arthritis and do not repair joint damage. They are recommended to be administered only when the pain is severe or the patient is about to exercise.
Paracetamol (Depon or Panadol)
That is the best and most well tolerated analgesic. However, it must be given at the right dose. It is recommended to administer 1 gram (usually 2 pills) 3 or 4 times a day.
Combination of analgesics (e.g. paracetamol and codeine or paracetamol and dihydrocodeine) containing paracetamol and some form of the substance codeine, are indicated for severe pain. As they are more potent analgesics, they can cause side effects, such as dizziness and constipation.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
If joint pain or stiffness is due to inflammation, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen are recommended. NSAIDs might cause side effects, but your doctor will take steps to reduce that risk. He might suggest a lower dose combined with the shortest possible interval of treatment, and prescribe you a gastroprotective medicine.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams and gels are a good alternative for those who have problems with NSAID pills. They help a lot in osteoarthritis of the knee or arm, but not in deep joints, such as the hip. NSAID creams and gels are applied directly to the painful joint, 3 times a day, and do not need to be rubbed. They are absorbed directly by the skin.
Capsaicin cream is made from pepper and is an effective and well-tolerated analgesic. It is especially useful in osteoarthritis of the hand or knee, and should be used 3 times a day. Most people feel a burning sensation when they first use it, but the feeling subsides after a few days. The pain starts to subside a few days after the first use, however patients should try it for at least 2 weeks before deciding if it is effective.
Opioids & anti-inflammatory pills
In case of very severe pain, stronger analgesics (e.g. opioids/anti-inflammatory pills) should be given. These analgesics are more likely to cause side effects such as nausea, dizziness and confusion, so patients should see their doctor frequently and report any problems.
Some opioids are given topically in the form of a patch and offer pain relief for several days. Strong analgesics can only be given with a doctor’s prescription. As these treatments work differently, patients can combine some of them for greater pain relief. However, they should consult their doctor or pharmacist to find out which combinations are safe.
Intra-articular injections of cortisone into particularly painful joints are sometimes recommended. The injections work in one to two days and soothe the pain for several weeks or months, especially in the knee or thumb.
Transdermal electrical nerve stimulation – TENS
Transdermal electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is used to relieve pain. The TENS machine is a small electronic device that triggers a tingling sensation. It is thought to modify pain messages sent to the brain. Transdermal electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can be used by a physiotherapist.
Surgical treatment includes joint replacement. It is recommended in case of very intense pain throughout the day, which does not subside with all the above treatments, or in severe mobility problems. Joint replacement offers significant pain relief when other treatments are not effective. In the event of a knee lock, arthroscopic lavage is performed. That is an operation in which the joint is rinsed of free bodies or broken meniscus sections.
Heat or cold sometimes offer relief from joint pain and stiffness. Heat lamps are quite popular, but water heaters or heating pads (sold in pharmacies) are just as effective. Ice packs also offer pain relief. Hot or cold compresses should not come into direct contact with the skin. Whichever method of treatment you choose, make sure you stay under the supervision of your personal orthopedic.