The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, improve function, and prevent further joint damage. The underlying cause cannot usually be cured.
Lifestyle changes are the preferred treatment for osteoarthritis and other types of joint inflammation. Exercise can help relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength. Your health care team can help you design an exercise program that is best for you.
Exercise programs may include:
- Low-impact aerobic activity (also called endurance exercise)
- Range of motion exercises for flexibility
- Strength training for muscle tone
Physical therapy may be recommended. This might include:
- Heat or ice
- Splints or orthotics to support joints and help improve their position; this is often needed for rheumatoid arthritis
- Water therapy
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from a flare-up more quickly and may even help prevent flare ups.
- Avoid staying in one position for too long.
- Avoid positions or movements that place extra stress on your sore joints.
- Change your home to make activities easier. For example, install grab bars in the shower, the tub, and near the toilet.
- Try stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, which contain important vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acides, such as cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, and herring), flaxseed, rapeseed (canola) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
- Apply capsaicin cream over your painful joints. You may feel improvement after applying the cream for 3-7 days.
- Lose weight, if you are overweight. Weight loss can greatly improve joint pain in the legs and feet.
Review Date: 02/14/2011
Reviewed By: Michael E. Makover, MD is a professor and attending in rheumatology at the New York University Medical Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.