Osteoarthritis Treatments

What can you do about osteoarthritis (OA)?

At HSS, conservative, non-surgical treatments – aimed at decreasing joint pain and improving mobility – are the first line of management for osteoarthritis.

Treatment is always personalized to the patient. It will depend on the severity of your osteoarthritis, other diseases or conditions you may have, as well as what medications you are currently taking.

Being diagnosed with osteoarthritis does not mean incapacitating pain is inevitable or that disability will rob you of all your favorite activities as you age. There is much you can do.

Movement Can Be Medicine

The human body is meant to move. When osteoarthritis damages a joint, people will often react by becoming more and more sedentary, which leads to more pain and stiffness. When, in fact, learning to move properly can help your body’s natural self repair mechanisms slow down cartilage deterioration. Stronger muscles even help protect joints.

But you must learn the right moves. If necessary, an HSS physical therapist will guide your safe return to exercise and activities through expert rehabilitation. HSS also offers movement classes to help you get active and stay that way.

How Weight Can Affect Pain

Carrying extra pounds taxes your joints. Studies have shown time and again that losing even ten pounds can help ease OA pain, while gaining weight can have the opposite results and exacerbate joint pain and stiffness.

Learn more about healthy weight, staying active, and maintaining sports performance, including ways HSS can help.

Pain Is Personal

People’s experience of pain is highly individual. Some people whose x-rays show joint deterioration may report little discomfort. Other people with the same clinical presentation may be experiencing pain so acute it curtails their formerly active lifestyle. Genetics play a role, as do cultural aspects and personal history.

There is no right or wrong experience of pain; there is only your personal experience, and determining (with your doctor’s guidance) what kind of pain management is the best decision for you.

Pain Medication

Depending on the level of pain you are experiencing, other medications you may be taking, and how you personally react to certain medicines, your doctor will prescribe pain relief most appropriate for you. These may include any of the following:

As Osteoarthritis Advances – Stronger Pain Relief

Highly effective procedures that are performed on a convenient out-patient basis at HSS include:

Integrative Care Center at HSS

Acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, yoga, and T’ai Chi Chih have helped many people manage their osteoarthritis pain. The Integrative Care Center at Hospital for Special Surgery offers all these therapies and more, including movement classes and posture evaluations.

Interdisciplinary Team Approach

Because every person’s experience with osteoarthritis is unique, the condition can change, especially if an injury occurs. At HSS, Rheumatologists, Orthopedic Surgeons, Physiatrists, Radiologists, Physical Therapists, and Pain Management Specialists work together as a team to address issues as they occur.

Surgery – When Is It Time?

When conservative measures fail and pain in a specific joint disables an active individual, surgery may restore comfort and the ability to pursue normal activities.

Among the advantages of HSS’s team approach is that decisions about surgical procedures can be well considered – over a span of years, if necessary.

The best candidate for surgery is a patient whose daily life has been interrupted to a great degree, like patients who can't walk more than a block or awaken from sleep with pain in the affected joint. Surgery can help restore the quality of daily living.

The type of surgery recommended will depend on a patient’s age, activity level, and the joint involved.

There are same-day procedures – like arthroscopy – that are right for some painful conditions. Hip resurfacing is a procedure may not be right for everyone – especially women – but which can create significant relief for those for whom it is an appropriate procedure. When appropriate, total joint replacements are available for almost every joint in the body.

Leading Joint Replacement

Hospital for Special Surgery performs more hip surgeries and more knee replacements than any other hospital in the United States. HSS surgeons helped develop the modern total knee replacement. The smaller instruments, surgical techniques, and regional anesthesia necessary for minimally invasive joint replacement were all pioneered at HSS.

Today more and more younger patients, especially ones who have been active in sports their whole lives, are turning to Hospital for Special Surgery for joint replacement options not always available elsewhere.

Learn more about joint replacement surgery at HSS, including articles, videos, and expert interviews on HSS.edu, which can help you understand more about joint replacement.

Pioneering Research

Hospital for Special Surgery is the largest academic research center devoted exclusively to musculoskeletal medicine in the world. New discoveries that lead to innovative treatments are a hallmark of the hospital’s uniquely collaborative approach to research.

Learn more about the latest research and clinical trials of the HSS Osteoarthritis Initiative.