Weaken the Hold of Osteoarthritis Pain and Strengthen Your Quality of Life

Moving Ahead     Winter 2019

Osteoarthritis can’t be cured. But, based on the severity of your condition, you and your doctor can develop a treatment plan to help you control osteoarthritis pain and stiffness, improve joint movement and maintain as active a lifestyle as possible.

“Management of osteoarthritis pain ranges from temporary relief to treatments that can have a longer range effect on your quality of life,” says Premier Orthopedics physician Michael Herbenick, MD. “Treatment options include medications, various therapies, lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise, and, when other means don’t work, surgery.”


Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications are commonly used for short- and long-term management of osteoarthritis pain.

Check with your health care provider before taking any medication for osteoarthritis — even OTC medications, which you can buy without a prescription.

These drugs can cause serious side effects, particularly when taken long-term. For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. And pain medicine could interfere or adversely interact with other medications you are taking.

OTC medications include:

  • Acetaminophen, which can control moderate pain without stomach upset. However, it does not reduce swelling, and long-term use and higher doses can damage the kidneys and liver.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which help relieve pain and swelling. But they can raise blood pressure, cause stomach and kidney problems, and should not be taken if you use blood thinners, such as Coumadin.

Prescription medications include:

  • Prescription NSAIDs, which are stronger than over-the-counter NSAIDs, reduce pain and swelling. However, they may cause serious stomach problems and easy bruising. They may cause kidney or liver problems in rare cases.
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex), a NSAID, is less likely to cause stomach problems. Do not take other NSAIDs with it.

Topical medications are another option. These include lotions, creams, sprays, ointments and gels that you apply directly to the skin over the affected joint. Examples include NSAID creams and creams containing capsaicin, an active compound in chili peppers. Topical treatments may be used with some oral medications, but check with your doctor before using.

Lifestyle ChangesWeaken the Hold of Osteoarthritis Pain - In Content

“You can make a longer lasting impact on osteoarthritis with lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise,” says Dr. Herbenick.

Extra weight puts stress on your joints, particularly the weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees and ankles.

Exercise is effective because it strengthens the muscles that support your joints. Plus, it lessens joint pain and stiffness, helps you lose weight and improves your overall health. Recommended exercise for joint health includes swimming, walking and low-impact aerobics. Stretching exercises improve joint flexibility.

“Management of osteoarthritis pain ranges from temporary relief to treatments that can have a longer range effect on your quality of life,” says Premier Orthopedics physician Michael Herbenick, MD.

And don’t overdo it. Take cues from your body, alternating activity and rest to protect your joints.

Heat and Cold Therapy

Heating pads, warm baths or showers can provide temporary pain relief. So can ice packs wrapped in a towel, placed over the joint. Cold therapy can also help reduce swelling.


Massage can bring temporary relief by increasing blood flow and warming muscles.

Joint Immobilization

A brace or splint can prevent further injury of a joint by limiting motion.

Assistive Devices

Similarly, canes, crutches and walkers reduce joint stress while improving balance.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

Small TENS devices block pain messages to the brain by directing mild electrical pulses to nerve endings beneath the skin in the painful joint area.

Hyaluronic Acid Therapy

Effective for some patients, injection of hyaluronic acid in joints — usually the knee — helps restore lubrication that is commonly lost by people with osteoarthritis.


When other therapies are not effective, doctors may recommend surgical options such as arthroscopy, fusion or joint replacement.