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occurs when cartilage (tissue that cushions a joint) wears away slowly and causes the bones to rub together. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a long-term condition that often affects the hands, neck, lower back, knees, and hips. OA is also called arthrosis or degenerative joint disease.
Common signs and symptoms include the following:
- Joint pain that gets worse when you move the joint
- Joint stiffness that decreases after you move the joint
- Decreased range of movement
- Hard, bony enlargement on your fingers or toes
- A grinding or cracking sound when you move your joint
Call your doctor or specialist if:
- You have severe pain.
- You cannot move your joint.
- You have a fever.
- Your joint is red and tender.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Treatment for osteoarthritis
may include any of the following:
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Capsaicin cream may help decrease pain in your joint.
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
- A steroid injection may be given if your symptoms get worse.
- Physical therapy is used to teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. A physical therapist may move an area with his or her hands. For example, he or she may move your leg in certain ways to treat osteoarthritis in your hip.
- Ultrasound may be used to treat osteoarthritis in certain areas, such as your knee. Ultrasound produces heat that can relieve pain.
- Surgery may be needed if other treatments do not work.
Manage your symptoms:
- Stay active. Physical activity may reduce your pain and improve your ability to do daily activities. Avoid activities that cause pain. Ask your healthcare provider what type of exercise would be best for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This helps decrease the strain on the joints in your back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Ask your healthcare provider what a healthy weight is for you. He or she can help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Use heat or ice on your joints as directed. Heat and ice help decrease pain, swelling, and muscle spasms. For heat, use a heating pad on a low setting for 20 minutes, or take a warm bath. For ice, use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you place it on your joint. Use ice for 15 minutes every hour.
- Massage the muscles around the joint. Massage helps relieve pain and stiffness. Your healthcare provider or a physical therapist can show you how to do this. If you have hip OA, another person may need to help you massage the area.
- Use a cane, crutches, or a walker if directed. These help protect and relieve pressure on your ankle, knee, and hip joints. You may also be prescribed shoe inserts to decrease pressure in your joints.
- Wear flat or low-heeled shoes. This will help decrease pain and reduce pressure on your ankle, knee, and hip joints.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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