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For those already suffering from osteoarthritis, there may be treatments your doctor can recommend to cope with the condition.

Painkillers including over-the-counter creams and rubs, paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed for those with severe pain. Intra-articular injections into joint may help to reduce the pain and swelling for a short period of time and may be considered in selected group of patients.

It’s important to note that there is no evidence to support any kind, any brand or any form of supplements that can prevent cartilage loss in long term, although some patients may feel mild pain relief with some supplements​ says Dr Katy Leung, Senior Consultant from the Department of Rheumatology & Immunology at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Exercise and weight reduction are still the two most important therapies. Exercise can improve your physical health and reduce the joint pain in osteoarthritis. Persistent exercise and just a tiny bit of weight loss are more effective to improve the joint pain. ​Your doctor and physiotherapist can both give you helpful advice on exercise.

3. Manage your weight

Excess weight puts additional stress on your joints, particularly those that bear the body’s weight such as the knees, hips and joints of the feet. The load you put on your knee joints can be as much as four times your own body weight. If you’re overweight but free of osteoarthritis, losing weight can help prevent the disease. If you already have osteoarthritis, weight loss can help improve osteoarthritis symptoms.

4. Eat healthy

Although there is no specific diet that prevents osteoarthritis, eating a well-balanced diet can help maintain an ideal weight, which is beneficial for your joints. It’s always best to get your vitamin intake through diet instead of supplements. So far, there is no compelling evidence that omega-3 or any other supplements (including glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, etc.) or vitamins can prevent cartilage loss in long term.

5. Lessen strain on your joints

Refrain from putting continual stress on your joints, e.g. continually carrying heavy objects. To avoid injury during lifting, here’s what you should do:

  • Before lifting, spread your feet apart to give your body a wide base of support.
  • Stand close to the object you’re lifting, then squat down by bending at your knees.
  • Look straight ahead while keeping your back straight and bring the object as close to your body as possible. Then slowly lift, using the muscles in your hips and knees.
  • Squat to set the object down.

Some people may consider changing from high impact exercises (eg. marathon running, football, tennis, badminton, etc); towards low impact exercises (eg swimming, brisk walking, cycling, slow jogging). Walking aids such as cane or stick may help some people. Some special kinds of brace and walking devices can also help relieve joint pain and better train up the muscle. Physiotherapists can assess your joint condition, and prescribe the most appropriate exercise regimen for you.​

If you are experiencing severe pain and starting to have walking difficulties that affect your work and daily activities, replacing the defective joints with artificial joints (joint replacement surgery) may be advised as a last resort.

With proper care, a healthy diet and regular exercise, it is possible to protect your joints and limit the effects of osteoarthritis.

See previous page for tips on how to prevent osteoarthritis.

Ref: O17​