Diagnosed With Osteoarthritis At A Young Age? What Are Your Long-Term Treatment Options?

Whether you've suffered a sports-related injury as a teen that caused permanent damaged your knee cartilage or have worked a highly physical job for a decade or more, you may struggle with the joint aching and stiffness that accompanies the early onset of osteoarthritis. Left untreated or poorly managed, this condition could limit your range of motion and prevent you from participating in many activities you previously enjoyed. Read on to learn more about some ways you can help manage your osteoarthritis and prevent it from interfering with your daily life. 

How can you prevent osteoarthritis from significantly worsening over the next few decades?

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by an inflammatory response from your body's immune system toward your joints, osteoarthritis is often triggered by wear and tear or overuse of a particular joint. As this wear and tear occurs, the protective cartilage in your knee is slowly worn away, eliminating much of the cushion that prevents bone-on-bone contact. Osteoarthritis is common in the elderly simply due to the long-term impact of decades of activity -- however, many younger people are diagnosed with this ailment each year due to contact sports, being overweight, or working a highly physical job. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to maintain your current level of activity without causing further damage.

  • Change your diet

There are some foods that can help halt the progression of osteoarthritis and a few that may accelerate it. If your current diet is heavy in saturated fats or highly processed white carbohydrates (like bread, rice, or potatoes), you'll want to begin substituting these foods for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and certain spices like ginger. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids (like cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds) are also ideal in helping your body produce the lubrication your joints need. 

Not only can consumption of these foods help you feel better, they'll often lead to weight loss -- diminishing the load your knees, hips, and ankles are required to carry and limiting the further deterioration of your joint cartilage. 

  • Investigate hyaluronic acid injections

In some cases, the joint pain you're experiencing is due to lack of lubrication around the remaining cartilage. Having hyaluronic acid injected into the space surrounding your joint can help minimize the bone-on-bone impact and prevent further damage to your joint as you put weight on it. This acid is naturally produced by your body and (unlike cortisone injections) won't have any negative impact on your joint with long-term use.

  • Have a chiropractic adjustment

Just as you wouldn't want to drive your car with its tires out of alignment (causing uneven wear and premature damage), you don't want to go about your daily life with your joints poorly aligned. Having a chiropractor adjust your neck, spine, and hips can put your vertebrae and nervous system into a more comfortable position and should help eliminate excess wear and tear on your joints. Depending upon the physicality of your job and the degree to which your joints have degenerated, you may be able to get by with only periodic treatments or could require regular adjustments. 

What are your options if these preventive measures aren't working?

If your osteoarthritis symptoms continue to worsen even with these lifestyle changes and minor interventions, you may want to consider corrective surgery. While few surgeons will perform an artificial joint replacement on a relatively young patient, the use of cadaver bone and tissue to replace worn cartilage or torn tendons can help bring new life to tired joints. These procedures aren't ideal for everyone, but if you're already undergone a number of treatments and are still dealing with debilitating joint pain and stiffness, it may be worthwhile to investigate surgical options. 

For more information, contact a clinic like Town Center Orthopaedic Associates.