Treatment of osteoarthritis: conservative and surgical methods

physiotherapy exercises for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a painful change and deformity of the joints. Occurs when the joint cartilage is irreparably damaged. Signs of abrasion can be significantly reduced with conservative treatment or surgery.

An overview of the disease

  • The following joints are most affected: knees, hips, shoulders, spine, fingers and toes, ankle joints;
  • The most important symptoms: pain during exercise, pain at the beginning of exercise (at the beginning of physical activity), decreased mobility, deformity of the joints, periods of exacerbation: swelling, redness, persistent pain;
  • Diagnosis: physical examination, radiography, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
  • Treatment: sports, heat or cold procedures, painkillers, intraarticular injections (hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate), in the later stages - joint replacement (surgery);
  • Caution: Many osteoarthritis does not need long-term treatment, but physiotherapy and prevention of exacerbations should be done sufficiently and, if necessary, the pain syndrome should be stopped.

Methods of treatment of osteoarthritis

How to treat osteoarthritis of the fingers

What helps with osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis? This is a key question for most patients. Answer: There is still no cure for osteoarthritis that can repair damaged cartilage.

Treatment of osteoarthritis can only relieve the symptoms of the disease. In addition, the treatment should prevent long-term wear of the joints.

This is because the disease also leaves its mark on the worn joint over time, damaging the joint capsule, bones and muscles.

Treatment of osteoarthritis includes conservative and surgical procedures. The attending physician will select the most appropriate method for each patient. Among other things, it assesses which joints are affected, how severe the general wear and tear is, and how severe the symptoms are.

Conservative treatment

Conservative osteoarthritis treatment is designed to relieve pain, fight inflammation, and increase muscle strength and coordination. Physiotherapeutic procedures performed during both exacerbation and "calm" of symptoms play an important role.

Physiotherapy treatment

physiotherapy treatment of osteoarthritis

Different forms of physical therapy can relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. These include:

  • Physiotherapy;
  • Manual therapy;
  • Thermotherapy (not in the acute stage);
  • Cryotherapy (acute stage);
  • To engage in useful sports for the joints, such as Nordic walking, swimming and cycling;
  • water therapy and baths;
  • Electrotherapy;
  • ultrasound therapy;
  • Orthopedic devices.

You can use heat from heat treatments, packs, baths, or infrared light to treat chronic osteoarthritis pain. On the other hand, severe swelling and discomfort are reduced with cold treatments or compresses.

Physical therapy is also useful in the treatment of osteoarthritis because it strengthens the muscles. Massage is also recommended: it relieves tension and improves blood circulation.

Move together during training

Regular exercise keeps your joints elastic. Therefore, people with osteoarthritis should incorporate sports and exercise into their daily lives. Swimming is a good example. It trains the joints without overloading them. For the same reason, it is recommended to walk on the plains and ride a bike.

Exercise can not only prevent, but also slow down osteoarthritis and reduce symptoms.

Less suitable for osteoarthritis are sports with acute, significant joint stress, excessive movement, or a high risk of injury. These include, for example, tennis, skating, football, handball, karate and boxing.

Joint fixation

joint fixation for osteoarthritis

Bandages, elastic bandages, soft soles and armpits facilitate the operation of the joints. Orthoses help in the same way. These are special support devices for the joints. They prevent painful movements. However, orthoses are not very elastic and should only be worn for a short time to prevent joint stiffness.

If a person is overweight, try to lose weight. Thus, the joints will carry less stress. Regular exercise and a healthy diet help to lose weight.

Medications to treat pain and inflammation

Painful joints with osteoarthritis can be rubbed with painkillers, creams or gels from a pharmacy.

Local anesthetics are used to relieve pain: they are injected into the joint or around the affected area.

Osteoarthritis (or osteoarthritis) is usually a non-inflammatory process. However, the inflammatory process often attaches to the tissue affected by osteoarthritis. Then they talk about the activation of osteoarthritis or arthritis.

For treatment, your doctor often prescribes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Sometimes anti-inflammatory glucocorticoids are also injected into the joint.

Some patients receive hyaluronic acid or chondroitin sulfate injections inside the joint for osteoarthritis. These are glycosaminoglycans and natural components of synovial fluid. Hyaluronic acid is injected directly into the affected joint to restore its mobility.


Surgery can correct problems and stabilize joints in patients with osteoarthritis. It also relieves pain and prevents inflammation. In some cases, damaged cartilage is replaced during surgery. Osteoarthritis patients are able to move better after surgery.

Joint washing and treatment

surgical treatment of osteoarthritis

The joint affected by osteoarthritis is sometimes washed with saline. This is most often done, for example, with the knee joint.

Bursa washing removes damaged cartilage and tissue fibers, as well as other particles floating in the synovial fluid. In addition, the procedure should soothe any inflammation present in the joint.

Reorganization means a complex treatment of the joint capsule. The rough surfaces of the cartilage in the joint are removed with tools. It also removes areas or tissues that can impede joint mobility. Acute pain disappears, at least temporarily, as a result of treatment.

Joint therapy is performed as part of arthroscopy. Surgical instruments are inserted into the joint through very small incisions.

Stimulate cartilage growth

During arthroscopy, small injections are made into the remaining surface of the cartilage for therapeutic purposes. This should stimulate the cartilage cells to form replacement tissues. However, this new cartilage tissue has a different structure from the original cartilage and does not fully meet the requirements for the joint.

In some cases, cells can be transplanted into a damaged joint over several years of illness.


Corrective osteotomy displaces the joint bones to distribute the load more evenly over the joint surfaces: some of the pressure is transferred from the osteoarthritis zone to healthy areas of cartilage and bone. In most cases, this type of osteoarthritis treatment also involves improving the function of the joint capsule and ligaments to restore joint mobility.

Joint replacement

arthrosis endoprosthesis

If the pain cannot be relieved with any other treatment for osteoarthritis, joint replacement is possible. This means replacing the damaged joint (or parts of it) with an artificial one. The operation is mainly performed during osteoarthritis of the knee or thigh joints.

Complex replacement is the last resort

To be honest, worn joint tissues and joint surfaces are surgically removed and replaced with metal, plastic and ceramic prostheses (alloarthroplasty). There are prostheses that replace only parts of the joint, and there are those that replace the entire joint. They are fixed either on the surface of the bone or with screws. With this method of treatment of osteoarthritis, if necessary, it is possible to correct the condition of the joint.

After a while, each prosthesis can wear out. The timing of this depends on a variety of factors: age, gender, the clinical presentation of osteoarthritis, infections, the type of joint, and the type of prosthesis.

The light prosthesis needs to be changed more often. Prosthetic wear can be detected in a timely manner by regular radiography.


Arthrodesis can help manage osteoarthritis pain. This is the strengthening of the affected joint: it is more stable, but also less mobile. Thus, arthrodesis is usually performed only in joints where low mobility does not interfere with the patient's daily life. These include the joints of the fingers and toes and the small joints in the wrist.


In this form of osteoarthritis treatment, damaged joints are removed without prosthesis and surgically repaired. However, today resection arthroplasty is rarely used.

This option may be considered for arthrosis of the thumb (rhizarthrosis), especially if conservative treatment of osteoarthritis is not successful. One of the affected metacarpals is removed and replaced with the body's own tendon tissue. The tendons of the long muscle of the thumb or the flexor tendons are often used. This form of therapy for rhizarthrosis is not considered a standard method.

Resection arthroplasty is also performed for osteoarthritis of the big toe or osteoarthritis between the clavicle and the humerus.

Alternative treatment for osteoarthritis

Homeopathic remedies for osteoarthritis

What helps osteoarthritis other than orthodox medical procedures? This question is of interest to many patients. They want to support the treatment with "natural", simple methods. Although the effectiveness of many alternative methods has not been scientifically proven, it is a good relief for osteoarthritis in some patients. Homeopathy, herbal remedies, magnetic therapy, and acupuncture are widely used to treat arthritis symptoms.

Salts and homeopathy

In many cases, osteoarthritis patients rely on these two alternatives: salts and homeopathic granules to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. In addition, salt baths and compresses should prevent osteoarthritis. Proponents say both treatments have no side effects and are therefore suitable for self-medication.

Experts recommend using minerals in combination with ointments or cream gels. Homeopathic remedies for osteoarthritis should be discussed with an experienced therapist.

Plant ingredients

For centuries, the treatment of osteoarthritis has also been based on herbs. These include the African devil's claw, nettle, mixed grass, willow, dandelion, cayenne and hips. However, if you use herbs for a long time, the symptoms of osteoarthritis improve. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you the exact use and dosage.

Magnetic field therapy

Osteoarthritis treatment with magnetotherapy is designed to relieve pain, restore joints and improve the patient's quality of life. The magnetic field is created by either a natural magnetic stone or an electric bandage.

Medical studies have shown that magnetic therapy can be especially helpful for osteoarthritis of the knee. However, patients with chronic polyarthritis in many joints should also benefit. No side effects have been observed with this alternative treatment for osteoarthritis.

X-ray therapy

X-ray treatment of osteoarthritis is designed to prevent inflammation and improve blood circulation. Radiation should be carried out at regular intervals and only very small doses of radiation are used.

X-rays are used, for example, in the treatment of rhizarthrosis and Heberden arthrosis.


Stimulation of certain points on the skin with acupuncture to normalize the damaged processes in the body. Usually, the course of treatment requires several sessions.

The use of acupuncture for osteoarthritis is not widely accepted. However, some patients say that acupuncture can help relieve arthritis pain. Acupuncture can reduce chronic pain, especially with combined wear on knee structures.

Osteoarthritis and nutrition

The link between arthritis and diet is often debated: can an unfavorable diet help with osteoarthritis? Should You Change Your Diet For Osteoarthritis?

In general, some foods do not cause osteoarthritis. However, the type of diet can actually affect its course: what is important is how much we eat and how we prepare our meals.

Less calories

As you gain weight, the load on your joints increases and wears out faster. Therefore, people who are overweight have a higher risk of osteoarthritis.

If you already have osteoarthritis, obesity can contribute to joint wear and tear, especially in the knee.

Obesity has a great effect on the joints. It is especially important to gain weight at a young age.

Therefore, the nutrition of osteoarthritis should be adjusted by counting calories if a person is overweight. A healthy body weight relaxes the joints, reduces anxiety during illness, and slows the progression of changes.

Less animal fat

useful products in the treatment of osteoarthritis

Proper diet for osteoarthritis means reducing the intake of meat and other animal products. Cause: Inflammation develops more easily in damaged joints and osteoarthritis. Several metabolic products mediate these inflammatory reactions in the body and are made from arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). These are mainly products of animal origin.

Therefore, the diet for osteoarthritis should limit the use of arachidonic acid. Instead, you should be more likely to consume foods that contain more omega-3 fatty acids, as they inhibit inflammatory reactions. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oils such as canola and flaxseed, and in oily fish such as herring, mackerel and salmon.

Therefore, the following guidelines apply to a proper diet for arthritis:

  • Reduce meat and egg consumption;
  • Fish in the diet twice a week (for example, salmon, mackerel, herring);
  • Use vegetable oils such as canola oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil or olive oil;
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables;
  • Whole grains and legumes are preferred;
  • Drink at least 1. 5 liters of water or sugar-free tea a day;
  • Calcium from low-fat dairy products to strengthen bones
  • Stay away from caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.

Such a diet for osteoarthritis can not replace other therapeutic measures, but can complement them wisely. This means that although diet does not cure osteoarthritis, it does have a positive effect on the patient's condition.

Keep moving!

gymnastics for osteoarthritis

Despite the possible pain, "inaction" in the treatment of osteoarthritis is not a good idea - in fact, it accelerates the process of destruction.

It is a lubricating oil that forms a so-called synovial fluid that reduces friction in the joint and nourishes the cartilage only during the operation of the joint and the movement of the articular surfaces.

Ideal exercises where the joint is not too tense: swimming, cycling, Nordic walking and gymnastics.