Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that can worsen over time causing increased pain and disability. Currently there is no proven cure to slow down or stop OA from worsening. The condition, however, affects people differently and it is hard to predict how the condition will progress in any individual. Unfortunately, changes that appear on an x-ray and other imaging studies do not indicate how quickly your symptoms will intensify, or how you will respond to treatment. On the other hand, for many people, their OA symptoms can lessen with appropriate management or at least remain the same.
Your treatment will vary depending on your symptoms and which joints are affected. Talk with your doctor so that together you may design a treatment plan that best meets your needs. This may mean trying one or more treatments to find the one or the combination of treatments that works well for you. Working with your doctor is important because you may have other conditions that would make certain medications used in the treatment of OA inadvisable in your case.
General guidelines: You should start with exercise, weight-loss, lifestyle modification, and physical therapy. Often these steps can be sufficient to manage the symptoms, avoiding use of medications. For many patients, though, medications to help with pain are also needed. Surgery is reserved for symptoms that don’t respond to these other options, including medications.