Other Treatments

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are substances found naturally in the body. Glucosamine stimulates the formation and repair of cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate prevents other enzymes from breaking down the building blocks of joint cartilage.

Past studies of people with mild to moderate osteoarthritis have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can provide mild to moderate pain relief at a level similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Some research indicates that the supplements might also slow cartilage damage in people with osteoarthritis. If you are interested in taking these supplements, talk with you doctor first. Your doctor will help you decide if they are right for you and what your proper dosage is.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

With TENS, a doctor or a physical therapist places electrode patches on your skin, connecting you to a small machine. This machine sends painless electrical signals through the skin to the nerves. In people with knee osteoarthritis, TENS may decrease pain and improve function.

Home Care

Application of Heat

Heat improves blood circulation to the affected area. Applying heat via warm soaks, paraffin, or heating pads can be very soothing. Most recommend that you apply the heat for about ten minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day.

Application of Cold

Cold can help decrease inflammation in an affected joint, relieving pain, and improving stiffness and movement. Apply an ice pack for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times each day. Cold packs after exercise can be very helpful.

Injections

Corticosteroid Injections

Your doctor may choose to inject the affected joint with a solution containing a corticosteroid medication such as:

The steroid injection can help decrease inflammation and pain in the joint. Sometimes, excess joint fluid will be removed from the joint just before injecting the steroid medicine.

Steroid injections often have to be repeated every several months. Most doctors believe that no more than three or four such injections should be given in a year. More than that number may itself cause damage to the articular cartilage.

Vicosupplementation

Viscosupplementation involves injecting the affected joint with a fluid containing a substance called hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a chemical found in normal cartilage and in normal joint fluid, which is vital to the lubrication of the joint surface.

Viscosupplementation uses laboratory-produced substances called:

  • Sodium hyaluronate (Hyalgan)
  • Hylan G-F 20 (Synvisc)

Viscosupplementation is thought to:

  • Lubricate the joint
  • Allow the joint to glide more freely
  • Decrease pain and stiffness