Fortunately, the most common prescriptions for Arthritis cost very little. Losing weight takes stress off of affected joints. Exercise, even just walking for half an hour every day, can strengthen muscles around the joints and can improve joint motion dramatically, particularly in those with knee osteoarthritis.
The drugs of choice, aspirin, ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin),cost just pennies a day. Over-the-counter preparations containing capsaicin, camphor, or menthol may help relieve minor joint pain and stiffness. For more severe cases, doctors may suggest corticosteroid injections to fight inflammation. In addition, research indicates that an intake of at least 386 units of vitamin D each day can keep knee osteoarthritis in check.
Sometimes people with rheumatoid arthritis find that more rigorous drug therapy or surgery is necessary to slow the progression of the disease and ease pain. Drugs that regulate the immune system, along with corticosteroids, often are prescribed, but their side effects can be serious. Immune-regulating drugs can suppress the entire immune system, leaving individuals at risk for other infections.
Corticosteroids administered over a long period of time can cause bone to thin and can increase the incidence of diabetes and cataracts. Promising research offers hope: Tests on experimental drugs have provided relief to rheumatoid arthritis sufferers by inhibiting the action of a substance that is released by inflammatory cells in the body and that causes severe pain and swelling.
Unfortunately, a $1 billion “quack cure” industry attracts many arthritis patients. Radon gas treatments, copper bracelets, and electric wands are just a few of the unproven, sometimes even potentially dangerous, treatments you should avoid.
Questions to Keep in Mind:
- What side effects should I watch for with the medications prescribed for arthritis pain? Do I need to take them with food?
- Is it important to limit or avoid drinking alcohol when taking some of these medications? Why?
- Are creams effective for relieving the pain of arthritis? How do they work? What are the advantages and disadvantages of creams over oral medications? Are they right for me?
- What else can I do to relieve the pain of arthritis aside from taking medications?
- When is physical therapy helpful? Are there things I can do on my own that also will help?
- Exercise is a helpful treatment for arthritis. What is the best exercise for me? How much? How often?
- Where can I get information to help me eat a healthy diet and manage my weight?
- If joint replacement surgery is recommended, what should I expect?
- What assistive devices are available (e.g., canes, faucet turners, extended handles on tools) to help me with daily activities and take pressure off my affected joints?