Mayo Clinic: My mother, 70, has osteoarthritis and was
prescribed medication to help with the pain. What else can she
do to keep it from worsening? Is physical therapy an option?
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that slowly gets worse
over time. Although the process of osteoarthritis canít be
reversed, the symptoms usually can be effectively managed.
Medication helps. Exercising regularly, staying at a healthy
weight and lowering stress on joints makes a difference, too.
For many people who have osteoarthritis, physical therapy is a
useful part of their treatment plan.
happens when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends
of bones in joints gradually breaks down. That leads to joint
pain, tenderness and stiffness. Although osteoarthritis may
damage any joint, itís most common in the hands, knees, hips
your motherís situation, medications such as acetaminophen
and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs,
frequently are used to control osteoarthritis. Several topical
medications are available that can reduce joint pain, too.
They include, among others, capsaicin cream and a gel form of
the NSAID ibuprofen.
on a regular basis also helps ease osteoarthritis symptoms.
This is where physical therapy may be useful. A physical
therapist can work with your mother to create an individual
exercise program to strengthen the muscles around her joints,
increasing her range of motion and reducing pain.
exercises, such as swimming, biking and walking, usually work
well. Some people also enjoy activities such as tai chi and
yoga, which combine gentle exercises and stretching with deep
breathing. A physical therapist can help your mother decide on
the activities that are right for her.
at a healthy weight also is an important part of managing
osteoarthritis. Carrying extra weight increases the stress on
weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips. Even a
small amount of weight loss can relieve some pressure and
decrease pain. If she would like to lose weight, your mother
can ask her health care provider for a referral to a
dietitian. He or she can discuss healthy weight-loss
strategies, offer suggestions for meal planning and provide
your mother with nutritious recipes to get started.
her symptoms from getting worse, your mother should try to
avoid overusing the joints affected by osteoarthritis. A
variety of assistive devices are available that can make
everyday tasks less stressful on joints. For example, using a
cane takes weight off a painful knee or hip. Gripping and
grabbing tools make it easier to open doors and jars.
Encourage your mother to ask her health care provider for
information about these and other assistive devices that might
be useful for her.
forms of alternative medicine have been suggested for
osteoarthritis treatment, too. Acupuncture ó a technique
that involves inserting extremely thin needles through the
skin at strategic points on the body ó may contribute to
pain control for some people. Meditation may also ease
osteoarthritis symptoms in certain cases.
nutritional supplements glucosamine and chondroitin often are
touted as effective treatment for osteoarthritis. Results from
studies on these nutritional supplements have been mixed
though. A few have found benefits for people with
osteoarthritis, but most have shown no clear effects. If your
mother is interested in trying these supplements, encourage
her to talk with her health care provider first. Glucosamine
is not safe for people who are allergic to shellfish. Also,
glucosamine and chondroitin may interact with blood thinners,
such as warfarin, and cause bleeding problems.
she goes forward with any additional treatment, it would be a
good idea for your mother to make an appointment to see her
health care provider, talk about her options and discuss the
benefits and risks of each. From there, they can create a
comprehensive treatment plan that will help keep your motherís
osteoarthritis symptoms under control