Arthritis Treatments and Exercise

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis is a swollen and inflammatory condition of the joints. This can cause swelling, pain and stiffness of joints and may affect other body parts like bones and muscles. Medications, steroid injections and joint replacement are the three main therapies used for arthritis treatments since long times.

There are certain options other options for treating arthritis. Your doctor will choose best suiting treatment for you after considering factors like your age, form of arthritis and stage of disease. Succeeding paragraphs will provide you brief information about the various options available for treating arthritis.


Normally, NSAIDs (Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) are used as medication, mainly for removing pain and inflammation, in treatment of arthritis. However, high doses of these NSAIDs can lead to ulcers or bleeding of gastrointestinal track. To overcome this side effect, researchers have introduced new type of NSAID called cyclooxygenase-2 (commonly known as COX-2) inhibitors. The COX-2 drugs treat arthritis without or lesser adverse effects on the stomach

Cyclooxygenase, required for prostaglandin synthesis, are classified in two categories. First is COX-2 enzyme that mediates pain and inflammation and the second COX-2 enzyme which help in maintaining physiological body functions. Unlike traditional NSAIDs, which inhibit both types of enzymes, the new form of drugs blocks COX-2 enzyme. This proprietary of new drugs helps you in overcoming the problem of intolerance to NSAIDs.
New drugs like Synvisc and Hyalgan (composed of hyaluronan) are used for treating arthritis by means of injecting these directly into the knee joint. Both drugs are considered to have characteristic of increasing quality of synovial fluid. Temporary knee swelling or pain and pain at site of injection are some of the side effects of this therapy. This is an ideal option for patients who have intolerance for oral medications and whose condition does not warrant surgery.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are mainly based on the combination of NSAIDs known for their proprietary of alleviating pain and reducing pain, like aspirin and ibuprofen; and DMARDs (Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) like sulfasalazine and methotrexate. DMARDs can alter the course of disease in many cases. Till recent past, DMARDS were used by the doctors to treat patients who doe not respond to other therapies. However, now days, DMARDs are used aggressively during early stage of disease with an aim of slowing down the disease growth and preventing possible damage to internal organs and joints.

Use of genetically engineered biological drug (like Remicade, known for biologic response modifier nature) in combination with methotrexate is the latest treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, as some patients do not respond or tolerate to methotrexate alone. Remicade bind to and block the protein action (that occurs naturally), known as Tumor Necrosis Factor) which plays role in inflammation and damage of joint. Remicade is administered by intravenous method.

Enbrel is another biologic response modifier with FDA approval. This injection is used mainly in treatment of severe cases. Enbrel reduces pain and stiffness and improve tenderness and swelling

Though both Remicade and Enbrel have shown positive results the side effects of these drugs are yet to be ascertained. Hence, you must be cautious while using these drugs, especially if you have history of recurrent infections.

Leflunomide (Arava) is the oral treatment used for slowing progression of rheumatoid arthritis. The effects produced by Arava are identical to that of methotrexate. It blocks the enzymes in lymphocytes. In fact Arava is not a cure for rheumatoid arthritis as it has side effects like liver damage and birth defects, especially in pregnant ladies; and not advisable for people with bone marrow dysplasia, immunodeficiency or recurrent infections.

Prosorba column is a non-drug procedure. In this procedure, plasma is separated from the blood cells using a single-use device after removing the blood from patient’s body. Afterwards the plasma is passed through the Prosorba column, recombined with the blood cells and then returned to the patient. The main aim of this procedure is to remove proteins. Fatigue, anemia, hypotension and swelling or pain in joint is some of the side effects of this procedure.

Arthritis and Exercise

Regular specific exercises are very important in treatment of arthritis for early relief. Exercises help you in strengthening muscles and vitality, prevent stiff joints and reduced mobility. You must consult a qualified physical therapist for designing most suitable exercise plan for you.

Following are the commonly recommended exercises.

  • Comfortable movement of joint up-to the extent it can go followed by stretching of joint. Such exercise decrease pain, improve joint function and increase and maintain mobility of joint. One should perform these exercises on daily basis or at least on alternate days.
  • Muscle exercises (obviously without movement of joint) with am aim of strengthening muscle. This helps in enhanced muscle strength and stabilizing weak joints.
  • Endurance-aerobic Exercises. These include swimming, walking, jogging and bicycling. These exercises help in strengthening lungs and heart and also enhance stamina.