Can Osteoarthritis Be Reversed?

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that happens when the cartilage between the bones breaks down, and joints become painful, stiff, and swollen. Although it is not possible to reverse OA now, you can manage this condition, and there are breakthroughs that show promise for reversing OA to some extent in the future. You may also be able to slow the progression of OA.

osteoarthritis in knees

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Nutrition

Nutrition may help you manage OA. In general, eating a healthy diet with adequate amounts of minerals and vitamins is important for overall joint health. Additionally, research shows that a whole-food, plant-based diet may help reduce the symptoms of OA. This type of diet focuses on fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, and legumes.

Your Weight and OA

Weight management is an important component of OA management. When you have extra weight, it creates additional stress on the joints, increases inflammation, and makes it harder to exercise. Losing weight—if you are overweight—may help relieve pain and other OA symptoms. 

Chondroprotective Nutrients

Chondroprotective nutrients are substances that protect the cartilage and joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two popular supplements that may have chondroprotective properties, but their effectiveness is uncertain. It is unclear if these nutrients are helpful because of conflicting studies.

Other potentially chondroprotective nutrients include:

  • Compounds derived from green tea
  • Rosehips
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Pomegranate

Preliminary studies show that the polyphenols, phytoflavinoids, and bioflavonoids from these products may help relieve some OA symptoms, such as lowering pain and improving mobility. These compounds show promise in slowing the progression of the disease.

Since it is possible for supplements to interact with other medications, you should talk to your doctor before trying any chondroprotective nutrients. 

Exercise

Exercise plays an important part in managing OA and slowing down the progression of the condition. Regular exercise can relieve pain, stiffness, swelling, and improve mobility. Your doctor may recommend working out for at least 150 minutes per week.

Your exercise program should include: 

  • Strength training to build muscles
  • Stretching to reduce stiffness
  • Cardio to lower weight and increase stamina
  • Balance exercises to build strength

Although walking is a popular type of exercise for OA, current research is not sufficient to recommend a specific form of working out is right for every individual with OA. It is more important to find an exercise routine that works for you and that you can do on a regular basis.

However, research has shown that exercise programs for OA are more effective if they are supervised. You may want to consider taking a class or hiring a personal trainer.

Joint Support

Wearing devices that provide support for your joints can help you manage symptoms. Assistive devices and mechanical supports can make it easier to do daily tasks. These devices can include:

  • Wraps
  • Braces
  • Canes
  • Crutches
  • Walkers
  • Shoe inserts

You want to have a fitting for any device done by a professional, so the devices meet your needs.

Assistive devices can include products for your home that help you complete tasks like cooking or cleaning. For example, you can purchase utensils with special grips and handles, so they are easier to hold. Other devices include zipper pulls, button aids, handrails, and gripping tools. 

Prescription Medications

In addition to over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for relieving pain, there are prescription drugs that can help. You should consult your doctor to discuss the best medications for you.

Medications for OA include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen 
  • Acetaminophen
  • Counterirritants such as capsaicin, menthol, and lidocaine
  • Corticosteroids
  • Opioids such as codeine and oxycodone 
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
  • Steroid injections 

Disease-modifying OA drugs (DMOADs) also show promise in managing the condition, slowing down its progression, and potentially regenerating or repairing damaged cartilage. For example, Sprifermin has the potential for improving the thickness of joint cartilage.  

Surgery 

Surgery may improve the mobility and function of the joints or replace them completely with new ones. However, surgery cannot guarantee complete relief from all symptoms. Usually, surgery is only necessary for severe cases of OA when other treatment options are no longer enough to help.

Do Not Ignore Your OA Symptoms

While there is hope in managing OA, it is a degenerative condition. If ignored and left untreated, it will get worse with time. Although death from OA is rare, it is a significant cause of disability among adults. Make sure to discuss any OA symptoms with your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Although you cannot reverse OA, it is possible to manage it and slow down its progression. In addition, there are research breakthroughs that may reverse OA in the future. Before you try any treatment or supplement, you should discuss them with your doctor. Some products can interfere with your medications and cause side effects. 

Researchers continue to study potential treatment options for OA, and they are looking for ways to reverse the disease. There is hope for better alternatives in the future. 

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