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Arthritis relief

If your joints are feeling creaky or achy, you’re not alone. Arthritis affects nearly one in five Americans and is the major cause of disability in adults. Pain and swelling most often occur in the hands, knees, hips, back and neck. There’s no known cure, but treatments—from simple to surgery—can provide you with relief.

Simple strategies

Before trying any therapy or supplement, talk with your healthcare provider. Here are a few treatments you may want to ask about:

  • Activity can play a key role in managing arthritis. By controlling your weight and keeping joint muscles strong, regular activity can reduce pain and stiffness and keep you flexible.
  • Acupuncture uses fine needles that stimulate points in your body to release natural pain-killing endorphins and fight inflammation. Acupuncture may be especially helpful in relieving knee pain from osteoarthritis.
  • Capsaicin in over-the-counter creams, ointments and patches is an ingredient found in hot peppers. It’s recommended by the American College of Rheumatology for soothing knee osteoarthritis pain. Use with caution, however, because these products may cause skin irritation.
  • Drugs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Motrin, Celebrex) or cortisone shots, can offer short-term pain relief. DMARDS (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) may slow disease progression.
  • Massage therapy can ease pain and stiffness by kneading or stroking the affected area. Regular massages can improve sleep and boost your body’s endorphin production.
  • TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, delivers safe, low-voltage electrical currents through electrodes taped on or near painful areas. TENS can provide short-term pain relief by blocking pain messages to the brain and modifying pain perception.
  • Supplements like chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine may help lessen osteoarthritis pain. Omega-3 fatty acids, the fats found in fish oil, may reduce inflammation and pain. S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e) may increase joint flexibility and decrease pain.

When surgery is a must

If these measures aren’t successful, it may be time to talk with your healthcare provider about surgery. Your choices may include:

  • arthrodesis, or bone fusion surgery, to relieve pain, usually in the ankles, wrists, fingers and thumbs.
  • osteotomy, a surgical correction of bone deformity. The surgeon actually reshapes the bone to reduce stress on the joint. It can take three to 12 months to recover.
  • synovectomy, the removal of the tissues lining the joints, or synovium. It can help reduce pain and swelling, but the synovium often grows back.
  • joint replacement surgery, or arthroplasty, rebuilds a joint by resurfacing or relining the ends of bones or removing damaged bone or joint tissue and replacing it with metal, ceramic and plastic parts. Recovery can take several weeks.