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If you have arthritis, here are tips to manage symptoms and slow progression of the disease.

There are many types of arthritis and the pain and inflammation caused by the condition can affect a variety of joints within your body. By far, the most common type is osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative condition, which means it gets worse over time. But is there anything you can do to get rid of arthritis once you have it?

Although you can’t “cure” arthritis or reverse any damage it’s already caused, you can often manage its symptoms and may be able to improve the function of your joints. You may also be able to delay or prevent further progression of the disease. The right kind of treatment and making some lifestyle changes can help.

What happens to your joints with osteoarthritis?

This common form of arthritis develops over time. It occurs when the cartilage in your joints that is supposed to provide a cushion between the bones of the joint breaks down or wears away as you age. When this occurs, it causes the bones in the joints to rub together. This is what causes the symptoms of arthritis, which may include pain, swelling, inflammation and joint stiffness.

How can you manage the symptoms of arthritis?

You can’t reverse any joint damage that has already been done if you have arthritis, but there are often ways you can reduce the symptoms. Some of these involve making lifestyle changes. For example, if you lose weight, you will put less pressure on your joints and may experience less pain and inflammation. Doing regular moderate exercise may also help you manage your condition.

Applying moist heat can provide relief to an aching joint. Cold therapy (such as an ice pack) may also help reduce pain and swelling. Some people find that using a splint or brace helps because it provides support to the affected joint.

If you have osteoarthritis, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help manage pain, swelling and inflammation when symptoms flare. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you will likely need to take other types of medications, including disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and/or biological response modifiers. This form of arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. The medications that treat rheumatoid arthritis are not given to people who have osteoarthritis because the cause of the condition is different.

Should you exercise if you have osteoarthritis?

It may seem like exercise will exacerbate your symptoms and cause your joint damage to get even worse, but exercise is one of the best things you can do for your joints if you have osteoarthritis. Of course, you may not be able to do the same type of exercise as you did before you had arthritis, or do it at the same level of intensity, but exercising regularly can reduce the pain and stiffness in your joints caused by arthritis. It can also strengthen the muscles surrounding your affected joints and helps improve your mobility and flexibility.

If you experience pain with exercise, consider switching to a different activity or taking a break. You may also find that wearing a brace or splint helps. Talk to your doctor about the best types of exercise for you and what symptoms you should look out for that indicate an activity is not appropriate.


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Date Last Reviewed: March 15, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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