Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in older adults worldwide. This health condition has a significant socio-economic impact on healthcare systems and quality of life. It can diminish a person’s mobility through pain, inflammation, and swelling.
Fortunately, much extensive research has been done to discover new methods and treatments for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Many of these treatments were built based on previous studies, with new drugs approved as recently as 2021. Thus, with the many treatment options available, some have emerged as the favored choice by patients and healthcare providers.
With that said, here are the trends and outlook for arthritis treatment and pain management.
Many injections and shots have been used and continue to advance for treating arthritis, especially in the knees. Most of these injections are temporary pain relief options for individuals who want to take the pressure off their joints to participate in pain management strategies like physical exercise or therapy. Furthermore, each injection has its own potential long-term use side effects, time to take effect, and lasting time.
Some of the more commonly used injections in arthritis treatment trends are cortisone or steroid injections and hyaluronic acid. These can be directly inserted into the knees or ankles to ease friction and create lubrication by replenishing synovial fluid. Furthermore, they can be used as an alternative to the more common ankle arthritis treatment, such as surgery and replacements.
Apart from the above injections, some use healthy cells and blood from the patient’s body to create a new type of regenerative medicine. This option is mainly for arthritis stages that are more severe and advanced.
One example is Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP injections that use blood platelets to inject into the joint area and help repair the surrounding tissue. Another is cell-based injections, which inject cells from the bone marrow to regrow cartilage. It includes Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Bone Marrow Concentrate.
Disease-Modifying OA Drugs (DMOADs)
Osteoarthritis or OA is the most frequently occurring type of arthritis where the cartilage at the end of bones starts to wear down. It can cause chronic pain near the joint areas, stiffness, and reduced mobility in mostly the hands, neck, back, and knees.
For the most part, past treatments have been focused on easing symptoms associated with pain and inflammation until Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis drugs or DMOADs came into development.
These drugs are still undergoing clinical trials and continue to emerge in trends to treat OA. They aim to completely change the disease before it becomes a permanent disability by stopping its advancement while potentially causing the cartilage to regenerate. Some new drugs include Otilimab Monoclonal Antibody, MMP inhibitors, Sprifermin, and Amniotic Fluid Allograft therapy, among many others. These drugs have proved to be effective in reducing inflammation and regrowing cartilage.
Alternative Pain Management Approaches
Over the years, as new treatments and research emerge, many arthritis patients have resorted to seeking non-medical or nonpharmacological methods. This emerging trend approaches arthritis treatment with a reduced reliance on medication and pills due to the wariness of side effects they pose. Most often, the medicine that is opted for is applied to the body, not taken orally, and is available over the counter.
However, the results of natural remedies differ from person to person and, in many cases, lack enough evidence to suggest they are consistently effective.
Some of these treatments consist of taking turmeric supplements which research shows can help reduce inflammation over time. Another popular option is using topical medicines that come in the form of creams, gels, sprays, and hot or cold patches that numb nerves closer to the skin or create a temperature effect that reduces pain and soothes the user. Physical therapy and self-management remain prominent choices for arthritis patients who want to improve mobility and flexibility and manage pain without taking medication.
In this case, natural pain remedies and lifestyle changes are adopted into everyday life to tackle arthritis from a physical and psychological perspective. Additionally, Ayurvedic therapy such as acupuncture, yoga, and meditation are preferred by those who endorse it.
Since nerves of the central nervous system transmit pain receptors to the joints, new treatment trends aim to block these signals to prevent the onset of pain. In contrast to the other more restorative therapies previously mentioned, these nerve treatments don’t cure arthritis or seek to modify the condition but rather assist in pain management. It’s also important to note that these treatments support ongoing research that has yielded positive results.
A common arthritis nerve treatment trend is radiofrequency ablation, in which a high energy frequency is transmitted through a needle inserted near the nerve. Doing this can disrupt the pain receptors in the spine and knees for a few months up to a year until they regenerate. A spinal cord stimulator that emits electrical pulses is also a treatment option for chronic pain to interfere with pain signals to reduce pain symptoms.
For rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups, a medication called Janus Kinase inhibitors or JAK is another option. They work by balancing immune system signals to prevent it, or as the name suggests, inhibit it from overproducing a protein called cytokines that creates inflammation. On the other hand, mild back pain may benefit from a nerve treatment known as Cryoneurolysis, which inserts cold nitrous oxide into the nerves around the joint. This treatment damages the nerves and stops pain signals from transmitting.
The outlook for arthritis treatment and pain management is promising, thanks to new treatments, therapies, and drugs developed during clinical trials. These treatments include injections and nerve treatments that inhibit the nervous system receptors, reducing pain. More treatments include biotechnology-created medications that could change the outcomes of arthritis in the future with cartilage regeneration properties.
In addition to these mainstream ideas are the physical therapy and culture-based methods that aim to promote wellness within individuals with the condition. Furthermore, these trends reflect patients who prefer to tackle their arthritis using a combination of medication and movement. Overall, arthritis treatment has diverse treatment options that will only continue to increase in time.