Osteoarthritis is a widespread condition affecting millions of people in Germany. Many of those suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee.Find out which role medication plays in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, and which non-surgical measures can help. The goal? Preventing knee surgery or at least delaying it as long as possible.
It causes pain and makes moving difficult – for about five million men and women in Germany, according to Deutsche Arthrose-Hilfe, a German non-profit association helping people with osteoarthritis. They suffer from the most common joint condition worldwide: osteoarthritis. This condition most frequently affects the knees, hips and hands. Progressing joint wear can lead to the protective cartilage in the joints being destroyed. If osteoarthritis occurs in the knee, physicians call it gonarthrosis.
What can help in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee?
In order to prevent osteoarthritis of the knee, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are recommended. Even if osteoarthritis of the knee has already been diagnosed, its progression can be positively influenced. The best remedy for osteoarthritis is a combination of supports and orthoses, therapeutic training, gentle exercise and an appropriate diet. Taking medication temporarily can also help – after consulting with a physician. These measures are summarized as non-surgical, or conservative, treatment, which aims to prevent knee surgery.
Making the pain go away: is there medication for osteoarthritis of the knee?
Osteoarthritis of the knee develops gradually and often goes undetected in its early stages. The first thing those affected feel is pain. This pain makes moving difficult – but movement is precisely what is needed to become pain-free. To escape from this vicious cycle, physicians often recommend medication that is designed to alleviate the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis. Medication helps to curb pain temporarily, allowing the patient to carry out movements more easily. The first level of a pain medication classification system provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) is a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can alleviate pain and inhibit inflammation. These non-opioids are designed to work for mild to moderate pain. A subgroup of this is paracetamol, a drug frequently used to combat the pain caused by osteoarthritis. However, its use should be limited to a brief period, because paracetamol can attack the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, there are acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen, diclofenac and ketoprofen. Some of these NSAIDs are not only available as tablets but also as an ointment which is directly applied to the knee.
Pills, ointments, etc. require expert medical advice
On the second and third levels of the WHO system, there are weak and strong opioids. Drugs in this category are only used in exceptional cases.
How does alternative medicine work in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee?
The effectiveness of vitamin products, food supplements with the active substances glucosamine, chondroitin or hyaluronic acid and homeopathic remedies for osteoarthritis of the knee has not yet been scientifically proven. Please make sure to consult your physician before using any of these products.
Movement and support
Even if exercise with osteoarthritis of the knee may be painful to begin with – it helps! During physiotherapy, osteoarthritis patients will learn suitable exercises to mobilize their knees. During physiotherapy as well as activities that are gentle on the joints, such as cycling, swimming, yoga or going for a walk, cartilage in the knee is supplied with nutrients and thus stays supple. It is only in this condition that the cartilage can fulfill its function as a shock absorber in the knee.
At the same time, the muscles that relieve the joint are strengthened. Bauerfeind supports and orthoses make it easier to start getting active, despite osteoarthritis of the knee, because they stabilize the knee and reduce pain.
When does surgery make sense in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee?
In some cases, there is no improvement despite an appropriate diet, physiotherapy and regular, gentle exercise. If pain continues and everyday activities are affected, knee surgery should be considered. Joint preservation surgery, such as a cartilage transplant or axis correction in cases of bandy legs or knock knees, can be an option. If implants, i.e. artificial joints are introduced, the term is joint replacement surgery. This type of surgery is largely recommended to older patients, because these implants have a limited useful life and should ideally not be replaced. Arthroscopy is no longer used in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee because it has not been shown to provide any positive results in the long term.
Getting active despite osteoarthritis of the knee
Do you want to avoid surgery and be more active?
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