Surgery is not usually my first recommendation, and this is no exception for my patients with arthritis. I have developed an eight-part conservative treatment plan for those suffering from arthritic joint pain. Most of these solutions can be done without the supervision of a medical professional. I recommend trying these in earnest before opting for joint replacement.
- Start at your Feet. When trying to keep arthritic knee pain under control, good shoes with arch supports are important. Your feet bear the weight of your entire body, and over time, the arches tend to fall. Arch supports help bring the feet and ankles (and therefore your knees) back into alignment. Since your feet are shock absorbers for your knees, good shoes take some of the stress off your knee joints.
- Brace Yourself. Choose a knee brace that provides maximum support. Soft knee braces—sleeves with a hole for the kneecap—take some stress off your knees, but a hinged knee brace is even more beneficial. This extra structure and support helps to unload the arthritic area and allows for a more active lifestyle. Hinged braces can be bulky, so shop around for the one that provides you with the most support while still keeping you comfortable.
- Non-prescription Pain Medication. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and pain medications can help to control pain associated with arthritis. Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve are all good options to take on a daily basis. You can find recommended doses for these medications in my book, Finding the Source. Topical pain-relieving creams and ointments, such as Cortisone, Aspercreme, and Arnica Lidocaine can bring extra relief straight to the affected area.
- Take your Vitamins. I recommend that all my arthritic patients take dietary supplements every day. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are supplements used to help with functionality of your joints and to lessen joint pain. These two amino acids are naturally found in your cartilage, so taking them daily can aid in maintaining healthy cartilage in your joints.
I also recommend taking a daily fish oil supplement. Fish oil contains omega-3, which has been shown to help your heart, brain, and joints. I share a full explanation of these supplements, along with suggested doses, in my book Finding the Source.
- Get Moving! It’s important to stay active by engaging in at least 20 minutes of exercise a day. Your routine doesn’t have to be anything crazy, and if your joints are yelling, “STOP!” then stop. A well-rounded routine ideally includes stretching, aerobic exercise, and strength training. If you’re having a hard time finding activities you can do without pain, your orthopaedic specialist or physical therapist can give you suggestions.
- Healthy Eating Habits. Nourish your body with healthy, whole foods and keep your weight in check. Carrying around a lot of extra weight is stressful on your joints, and many patients see great improvement when they shed a few pounds. An anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial for your joints and can help you avoid the need to take anti-inflammatory medication. Sugar and processed foods should be avoided whenever possible because they cause inflammation of the joints and contribute to the severity of arthritis.
- Keep your Bones Strong. Bone health is an important factor in keeping your arthritis under control. It’s been shown that patients with both arthritis and osteoporosis have more pain in their joints than patients with strong, healthy bones. Strong bones also help joint replacements last longer, in the event that you might need one in the future. Calcium, vitamin D, and weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen your bones and lessen arthritis pain.
- Injections. This is the only part of my conservative approach that needs to be done by a doctor. I only suggest this if the rest of these conservative treatment methods haven’t done the trick. Knee injections help you resume normal activities without pain, but they are by no means a long-term cure. There are a few different types of injections available, all of which can buy you time before needing a total joint replacement.
By taking these measures, you should improve the condition of your joints. If your pain is still interfering with your daily activities after trying all of the suggestions listed above, it might be time for a joint replacement.
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