Osteoarthritis, known as the wear and tear arthritis, is one of the most common kind of arthritis. Cartilage present in joints prevents bones from rubbing together. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage wears away resulting in bones rubbing against each other. This rubbing of bone together results in pain, stiffness, swelling and discomfort upon movement. The most affected areas are the hands, knees, hips and spine. Unlike osteoporosis, osteoarthritis affects the joints rather than bone. Osteoarthritis is also not to be confused with Rheumatoid Arthritis, where the immune system affects the joints and causes inflammation.
Risk Factors for developing osteoarthritis:
- Advancing age
- Family history of Osteoarthritis
- Joint injury
What can I do to help the pain?
Unfortunately there is no cure for osteoarthritis but the pain can be managed using medication. Analgesics (pain killers) are the first line therapy to manage osteoarthritis. Remember, always contact your pharmacist before trying an over-the-counter medication, to make sure it is right for you!
- Topical analgesics such as Voltaren are an alternative to oral treatments that offer reduced side effects.
- Tylenol (or acetaminophen) is the first line oral option for osteoarthritis. Tylenol comes in a formulation specific for osteoarthritis that provides immediate and long lasting relief. Tylenol should not exceed 4000 mg a day (6 tablets of Tylenol Arthritis).
- Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) are second line options when Tylenol cannot manage the pain. These drugs are anti-inflammatory (reduce swelling) and may control the pain better than Tylenol. These medications are not recommended for those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, kidney problems, over the age 75 or have a history of stomach ulcer without first consulting the pharmacist or doctor.
- Herbal medications Glucosamine and Chondroitin are thought to maintain cartilage health. These agents may help reduce paint associated with osteoarthiritis although the evidence to support their use is lacking.
For more information on osteoarthritis, or to find our which medication is right for you, talk to your pharmacist.