Treatment path of osteoarthritis from exercise to surgery

Exercise is the foundation for treating osteoarthritis, but any sports causing hard impacts should be avoided. Sufficient rest is important to counterbalance exercising. The whole treatment path of osteoarthritis:

Exercise and rest

For example, walking, cross-country skiing, cycling and swimming are suitable for most people suffering from osteoarthritis. Gym training with a rowing or cycling ergometer is a good option as well. Also everyday chores and functional exercise, like gardening, snow removal or berry picking, work well – they activate circulation and maintain muscle tone. Typical risk sports include different ball games.

Training muscle tone is important in the self-care of osteoarthritis, the same is true of stretching and extending legs or arms using, for example, an “exercise band” as resistance. The exercises activate leg and arm movement and lessen joint stiffness.

If you have any doubts about the safety of your sports in view of your symptomatic joint, it is recommended to discuss it with a physiotherapist or doctor. The basic instruction for maintaining a daily rhythm is to alternate periods of movement and rest during the day and break exercising down into shorter periods. You can, for example, replace one long evening walk with two shorter walks so that one of them takes place in the morning.

Losing weight

Overweight is a great risk factor in view of osteoarthritis. Dropping just a few kilos can reduce the risk of contracting the disease significantly. According to current knowledge, exercise will not cure or stop a diagnosed case of osteoarthritis, but it can help treat and alleviate symptoms, e.g., via improved muscle tone and weight management.

Mobility equipment

Good ergonomics is good treatment of osteoarthritis because most of us are impacted by, for example, the height of the working surface and our sitting posture every day for several hours.
The range of mobility equipment is extensive, varying from shoe heel pads to wrist supports and from forearm crutches to rollator walkers. It is recommended to listen to your doctor or physiotherapist to ensure that the mobility equipment correctly supports your moving.

Movement therapy

Movement, i.e., mobilisation therapy of osteoarthritis refers to the therapy of the joint provided by a physiotherapist. Movement therapy is based on slow and passive motion with the aim of reducing pain and improving joint movement.


Temporary relief from osteoarthritis may come in the form of cold or warm compress or gel without any medicinal substances. At first, the pain can also be alleviated by using pain relief gel available from the pharmacy without a prescription.

The primary choice in oral medicine is stomach-friendly paracetamol. It does not strain the intestines as much as actual anti-inflammatory drugs, but it often helps reduce osteoarthritis pain. If paracetamol is of no help, you can discuss anti-inflammatory drugs with your doctor. The course length is usually 7–10 days.

The doctor can inject the joint with cortisone approximately three times a year, which may numb the osteoarthritis pain for several weeks. Unlike cortisone, hyaluronate is a substance found naturally in our body.

Doctors administer it as a series of intra-articular injections. The effect varies, but many patients have found that the set of injections has alleviated their osteoarthritis pain for several months.
Pain in fingers can be treated with pain relief creams that include an anti-inflammatory drug. Rest pain is occasionally also treated with mild opiates, such as codeine or tramadol.


When walking becomes unfeasible or the patient’s functional capacity is otherwise clearly reduced as the result of osteoarthritis and the above-mentioned treatments do not help, joint replacement surgery is the next course of treatment. Read more about the surgery.