Living With Osteoarthritis: What Loved Ones Can Do

by Will Bozeman

Receiving a diagnosis of osteoarthritis can be a life-changing moment. The symptoms of this condition can change how you interact with your loved ones, determine what activities you’ll be able to participate in, and impact your emotional health. 

However, being diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA) does not have to feel like a condemnation. With the support of your loved ones, adequate lifestyle changes, and a treatment program designed around your needs, you can return to making the most of every minute in your personal and professional life. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the important role of family members, partners, and friends in helping people with osteoarthritis, and we’ll look at how new treatment options can magnify the life of patients battling a degenerative joint disease.

The Internal Struggle Of Patients With Osteoarthritis

Especially in the early stages of the disease, osteoarthritis can be considered an “invisible illness”, meaning that the pain, discomfort, and fatigue a patient experiences are not outwardly visible. 

Just because these symptoms aren’t noticeable to others, it does not mean that a loved one with OA isn’t struggling. The first step to helping someone in your family or group of friends with OA is to educate yourself about the causes and symptoms of this condition and attempt to understand what they are going through. 

Here are some of the ways in which OA pain can affect the life of your loved ones:

  • Persistent pain in the joints – Osteoarthritis is a “wear and tear” type of arthritis that breaks down the cushioning between bones, known as cartilage. Over time, the lack of lubrication can make the movements of hands, knees, ankles, and hips extremely painful. 
  • Stiffness and reduced range of motion – As the cartilage breaks down, the joints become exposed to friction and shock, which can damage bones and ligaments. This can lead to severe stiffness and mobility issues, especially after periods of rest (like in the morning or after sitting for a long time). 
  • Swelling – Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory disease, which means that the body sustains excessively high levels of inflammation for long periods. The inflammation increases the blood flow in the affected area, leading to the accumulation of fluids and often causing severe swelling

Mechanical issues – Osteoarthritis changes how the joints move, which can add pressure and friction to joint components that should normally be unaffected during movement. This can lead to deformities and misalignments that can make it difficult for a person with arthritis to move, maintain balance, or remain flexible.

Patients who suffer from osteoarthritis are all too familiar with persistent pain, bone spurs, stiffness, and aching in various joints throughout their body. While the conditions of osteoarthritis and its painful symptoms are very real, patients may not always consider the effect that their condition has on their loved ones. The burden placed upon loved ones who care for them is more than just the physical assistance required to help them. It’s the psychological stress of wishing there was more that could be done. 

Many patients take this to mean that they are a burden when in fact loved ones see a problem that they wish they could help with or take away from the patient, not that the patient is a burden themselves. Patients should see their condition as a problem that can and will be treated in partnership with their doctors and loved ones. 

If patients of osteoarthritis allow themselves to be defined by their condition, they will allow themselves to be seen as a burden. So, while loved ones can remind patients that their condition does not define them, they may also wonder what they can do to help.

Impact Of Osteoarthritis On Your Loved Ones

The symptoms of osteoarthritis can have a profound impact on a person’s professional, personal, and financial life. As the disease progresses, a person with osteoarthritis will begin to struggle even with the most natural daily activities, such as playing with their kids or enjoying their lifelong hobbies.

The first step a loved one can take to help a patient with osteoarthritis is to educate themselves on how the condition works and understand how their targeted intervention can mitigate the symptoms and bring physical and mental relief.

Below, we’ll look in more detail at the impact of osteoarthritis on a person’s life.

Chronic Pain and Relationships

On average, people with osteoarthritis live approximately 30 years with the disease. Although adequate treatment programs can prevent the progression of their illness, osteoarthritis is a degenerative and irreversible condition. This means that the pain they experience is likely to get worse due to stress, lifestyle choices, and aging. 

Here are just some of the ways in which this pain can affect their lives.

  • Interference In Sleep Patterns – There is a direct correlation between pain and sleep. In people with osteoarthritis, pain can become more noticeable at night due to fewer distractions, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep and get quality rest. This, in turn, can cause fatigue and inflammation, which worsen the symptoms of OA during the daytime. According to the Arthritis Foundation, up to 70% of people with osteoarthritis suffer from sleep disturbances. 
  • Inability To Perform Tasks And Routines – Joint pain inhibits even the simplest activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, and bending down. Additionally, stiffness in the knee and hips can hinder balance and mobility, increasing the risk of injuries and falls. Because of this, people with osteoarthritis might struggle with daily tasks such as bathing, cooking, or driving a car. 

Difficulty With Touch And Physical Intimacy – People living with OA might have a reduced interest in intimacy and a lower sex drive because of the distress, pain, stiffness, and limited mobility they experience. Since 31-76% of people with arthritis report having disturbances in their sex life, it is important for partners to understand how OA is impacting the other person.

The Financial Burdens of Treatment

Living with a chronic and degenerative condition can put a strain on a person’s financial life. 

For example, the lifetime cost for a person diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis was $140,300 in 2016, a figure that includes an expenditure of $129,600 in direct medical costs. But the cost of living with OA goes beyond these figures. 

People with osteoarthritis spend a significant amount on specialist visits, medical tests, medications, and therapies. What’s more, looking at the non-medical costs, people with debilitating chronic conditions might be forced to miss days at work and deal with the consequences of lost wages. 

Other costs faced by people with OA include the purchase of special equipment, changes in living accommodations, and alterations to their house. 

Because of these costs, people with osteoarthritis might begin to experience a sense of guilt and start to see themselves as a burden for their partner or family. Understanding this can help loved ones create a budgeting plan and ease the financial pressure that derives from a diagnosis of OA.

Mental Health

Osteoarthritis can have a profound effect on the mental and emotional health of patients. This is because OA can put a loved one under significant financial stress and change the dynamics within their personal relationships. 

Additionally, the reduced mobility and constant distress might prevent patients from carrying on with their current job and impact their professional life or career. Chronic pain can also lead to social isolation and impact a person’s ability to enjoy their hobbies and daily activities. 

Over time, this can increase the risk of developing mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. For the loved ones of people with OA, it is crucial to look for signs of social withdrawal, depressive episodes, or isolation; ensure they are provided the necessary help.

What The Research Says About Living With Osteoarthritis

Initially identified as a specific disease in the 1890s, osteoarthritis has been researched in-depth in recent decades. Today, patients can access an unprecedented number of resources that can help them cope with their conditions. 

Here is an extract of what the research says about the impact of OA on a person’s life:

  • Reduced self-perceived quality of life – According to a 2015 study, people with OA have a low perception of their quality of life, especially in terms of functional capacity, pain, and functionality. 
  • Poorer mental healthResearch published in 2017 shows that nearly 60% of those with osteoarthritis will develop a mental health disorder over the course of their disease. 
  • Increased risk of depression – A review published in 2022 reports that the prevalence of depressive symptoms in people with OA can be as high as 20%
  • Missed work days – A study published in 2022 shows that, on average, people with arthritis took an average of 93 days of sick leave in 3 years, accounting for an annual cost per patient of €2,594 ($2,747). 
  • A major cause of disabilityAccording to the CDC, arthritis is the third cause of work disability among working-age adults. It is also the main cause of disability among older adults

Higher risk of sleep disturbancesResearch published in 2016 shows that osteoarthritis is linked to sleep disturbances and sleep deprivation which, in turn, are risk factors for increased OA pain and depression.

Additionally, a 2019 study concentrating on the mitigation of knee osteoarthritis centered its arguments for treatment around six prevalent risk factors including: “(1) obesity and overweight, (2) comorbidity, (3) occupational factors, (4) physical activity, (5) biomechanical factors, (6) dietary exposures” (Georgiev 2019). While all these risk factors fall into the aforementioned categories (personal, clinical, and public), the most imperative factor for all of these risk factors is that they have the potential for mitigation to assist in the treatment of osteoarthritis. 

For example, the risk factor of obesity is a factor that can be mitigated to change the severity of osteoarthritis and it falls almost entirely into the personal category for, less so for education, and more so for intervention. If a loved one is aware and educated in the processes and responsibility, they can attempt to help maintain the OA patient’s weight, without personal intervention and action on the part of the patient, the risk factor will remain and get worse, and osteoarthritis pain will persist. 

While the study continues to address these risk factors and the importance of educating patients and their loved ones, doctors Tsvetoslav Georgiev and Alexander Angelov also conclude that “[i]n the era of age- and obesity-related diseases, the combined effects of local and systemic risk factors should be managed by combined measures”.

Patients and their loved ones should be made aware that the effective treatment of their osteoarthritis includes educating themselves personally and with the patient’s physician. At the same time, if patients do not make the right decisions and act for themselves and they do not use the “combined measures” to fight their osteoarthritis, it is likely that the condition will progress– and not in a good way. But what are these “combined measures”, specifically and how can loved ones help?

Can The Presence Of Loved Ones Help?

If a loved one has been diagnosed with arthritis, there is a lot that you can do to help them make sense of their condition and avoid complications such as isolation and mental health disorders.

Here’s what the research says:

  • Easing loneliness – A 2020 study shows that, people with OA often feel “lonely in their own loneliness” and are at greater risk of becoming socially isolated. Encouraging dialogue and being present for your loved ones with OA can help them feel understood. 
  • Feeling understood – A poll conducted by Creaky Joints shows that nearly 90% of people with arthritis feel that their friends and family don’t really understand their disease. For those with OA, having at least one person who understands what they are going through can help ease the burden of always having to explain and interpret how they feel.
  • Taking on a distinct role – A 2020 study explored the role of relatives in the management of arthritis. The findings highlight that it is important for relatives to have technical knowledge of the disease and take on a specific role to provide emotional, mental, and physical support. 

The 2020 study, which was published in the Patient Preference and Adherence journal, also highlighted the importance for relatives to participate in Therapeutic Patient Education (TPE) programs and develop interventions to fine-tune the management of the disease.

While patients follow the advice of their doctors, they often conclude that even while they do so, the pain and inconvenience of osteoarthritis permeates too much of their life and they and their loved ones would like to do more. Doctors Georgiev and Angelov list the following interventions: “[f]emoral muscle-strengthening physical activities, complemented with proper diet, weight loss, vocational rehabilitation, management of comorbidities (especially diabetes and depression), and biomechanical support”. 

While education and intervention of these risk factors can help to lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis, the study also concludes that, “[a]n individual risk factor modification program should be developed in accordance with patient preferences and habits, workplace, medical history, and overall health condition”. Patients and their loved ones should take heart in the fact that, with the advice of their doctor, maintaining their osteoarthritis and lessening its impact greatly depends on the individual choices they make related to their risk factors.

How Loved Ones Can Help Manage Osteoarthritis

No two people will see their lives impacted in the same way by osteoarthritis. Because of this, it is important to understand the unique challenges your loved one is facing. Relatives should learn to recognize the role they can play in supporting their loved ones by helping them manage their disease. 

According to research published in 2020, patients and relatives can use a joint approach to treatment and determine together how to better cope with arthritis. This approach includes clarifying everyone’s role, improving communication, and sharing information. 

Below are some practical examples that relatives can use as guidance to support their loved ones with osteoarthritis.

Building Acceptance For The Condition

Although a diagnosis of osteoarthritis can certainly be life-changing, it is crucial for patients not to be defined by their disease. Having a thorough understanding of their condition can help. 

According to a study published in 2021, the greater the disease acceptance is, the better patients will be able to adapt to their new life and cope with the psychological discomfort deriving from it. 

Relatives can help by normalizing the symptoms experienced by a person with OA, maintaining hope, and encouraging them to share their feelings. Looking at resources and treatment options together, and agreeing on suitable lifestyle modifications may also help.

Balancing Self-Efficacy With Physical Helplessness

For people with osteoarthritis, it is often too easy to be caught in a downward spiral. The trigger might be a negative outlook on life and a feeling of helplessness. However, this pattern can be broken by encouraging “self-efficacy”, or an “I can do this attitude”. A shift in mindset can help patients reduce perceived disabilities, prevent social isolation, and maintain a positive outlook. 

However, this should not be confused with encouraging your loved ones to “do it all” by themselves! Their symptoms are real, and providing them with the help needed can go a long way to help them maintain a normal life.

Acknowledging The Need For Help And Support

Beyond encouraging your loved ones to remain active and engaged, it is also crucial to seek the physical, medical, and mechanical help needed for them to remain independent in their daily lives. 

For example, you might suggest modifying the furniture or layout of their apartment to make moving around easier. Or, you can seek the help of home care providers who better understand the physical needs of someone with arthritis. If in doubt, consulting a specialized doctor can be an excellent starting point.

Seeking Professional Help Together

As we have seen above, people with osteoarthritis are at greater risk of developing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Although you might be doing your best to keep them engaged, socially active, and healthy, it is important to know when professional help might be needed. 

Some resources you could look at to find professional support include the following:

  • Occupational Therapists – Occupational therapy can help your loved ones cope with the consequences of OA on their daily life, activities, and career. Occupational therapists can offer guidance on how to protect their joints and modify their favorite activities to allow for the limitations caused by arthritis. 
  • Mental Health Professionals – Mental health professionals play a vital role in supporting the psychological and emotional health of people with a chronic disease. They can help your loved one better cope with the impact of OA on their mental health and prevent the emergence of disorders such as depression. 
  • Support Groups – While your loved one might feel alone when battling OA, it is important to remember that this disease affects nearly 33 million people just in the US. Connecting with people who have the same disease can improve your loved one’s mood, ease loneliness, and equip them with new tools to cope with their disease. 
  • Medical Resources – Having a technical knowledge of what osteoarthritis is and how it manifests is the first step to finding adequate treatment programs and avoiding the feeling of helplessness.

Discussing Treatment Options

Discussing treatment options with your loved ones is certainly a delicate task, especially as both the benefits and the risks of each therapy should be taken into account. When looking into valid therapies, it is important to look beyond traditional approaches and explore alternatives to NSAIDs, opioids, pain relievers, or surgery.

Today, there are valid treatment options for osteoarthritis that are sustainable in the long term and can help your loved ones regain a high quality of life. Let’s look at the options in more detail below.

Encouraging New Treatments For Osteoarthritis

When dealing with constant pain, it is easy for your loved ones to resort to what’s easily available: usually non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain-relievers. 

While these treatment options might ease pain in the short term, they are not a long-lasting solution and, when taken over long periods of time, they may cause severe side effects, including dependency. On the other hand, patients with advanced osteoarthritis whose disease has not responded well to pharmaceutical treatments might face the daunting prospect of undergoing surgery.

In the meantime, there are non-drug, non-surgical, non-invasive, and non-chiropractic treatments for osteoarthritis, and they are just a phone call away.

In the year 2000, a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of another nonsurgical treatment known as viscosupplementation was conducted. While the clinical trials of viscosupplementation were in their infancy, Dr John Watterson found that “. . . the lack of systemic side effects and the potential lasting effects make it an appealing option” (2000). The process of viscosupplementation is best described as a loosening and relaxing of the joints that feel stiff and rusted over. This nonsurgical option uses a safe compound called hyaluronic acid. 

Hyaluronic acid has been USDA approved for decades and Dr. Watterson attests to this benefit by stating that “[t]he US Food and Drug Administration approval of hyaluronic acid as a device has avoided the need for meeting the more stringent criteria for approval as a drug”. Decades later, the use of hyaluronic acid in viscosupplementation has remained an effective and affordable solution to treat osteoarthritis. 

Neuragenex uses hyaluronic acid viscosupplementation treatment for osteoarthritis in conjunction with its pain-relieving treatment protocols rooted in the principles of Neurofunctional Pain Management. Neuragenex operates a proprietary treatment protocols called Neuralgesia that use the principles of Neurofunctional Pain Management by relieving pain with high pulse electrical stimulation, and viscosupplementation in the case of osteoarthritis, and restoring health with specialized hydration therapy that restores nutrient deficiencies responsible for exacerbating the pain condition. 

While viscosupplementation relieves and loosens the joints affected by OA, Neurofunctional Pain Management treatments further reduce the pain by using high-pulse electrical stimulation to produce a sustained depolarization effect of the pain neurons associated with damaged tissues, in combination with specialized hydration therapy, this combination relieves pain, restores health, and magnifies the quality of life of our patients.

How Neuragenex Can Help You And Your Loved Ones Manage Osteoarthritis

We fulfill our mission by providing each patient with a customized Neurofunctional Pain Management program that includes the use of viscosupplementation therapies, hyaluronic acid injections, electrical stimulation, IV therapies, and hydration therapy. 

We also provide each of our patients with tailored lifestyle counseling services, which can help them modify the aspects of their lives that are negatively impacting their health. In the case of osteoarthritis, we guide our patients in the process of finding a more balanced diet that supports health and lowers inflammation. We also provide specialized help for those battling risk factors such as obesity and diabetes, and we design exercise programs that help fight the consequences of a sedentary life. 

Thanks to Neuragenex’s holistic approach, patients can experience a long-lasting reduction of pain and can begin to restore the full functionality of their joints affected by osteoarthritis.

It is worth noting here that Neuragenex is dedicated to relieving pain and restoring health. The mission of Neuragenex is to relieve pain, restore health, and magnify the quality of life without drugs, surgery, or invasive procedures.

Many patients experiencing the symptoms of OA report relief after only one session with Neuragenex. Patients experience greater mobility, strength, and motor skills they used to enjoy in their daily life. 

Hundreds of patients experience relief from pain that is almost instant, and treatment is simple. Patients who suffer from chronic pain often report relief after starting our treatment sessions with even a single treatment event. Given a full course of treatment, patients may experience pain relief for several months without drugs, surgery or invasive procedures. I personally have seen patients experience pain relief that has lasted over twelve months, and many patients experienced relief ranging from six to twelve months.

By relieving the pain deriving from osteoarthritis in the long term, Neuragenex can ease the physical and psychological burden of patients with OA and their relatives and help them return to enjoying their lives.

Don’t Let Osteoarthritis Be A Burden To You And Your Loved Ones

If you have noticed that a loved one is struggling with the symptoms of osteoarthritis, finding a solution to ease their pain and mobility issues is of paramount importance. However, at Neuragenex, our goal is to look beyond simply easing the symptoms of chronic conditions – we also strive to help patients magnify their lives, regain mobility, and return to the activities they have always loved.

Give Neuragenex the opportunity to relieve your pain without drugs, surgery, or invasive procedures so that you can return to your daily tasks without interruption. The mission of Neuragenex is to relieve pain, restore health, and magnify the quality of life without drugs, surgery, or invasive procedures. We have a vision that we will be the first thought, first choice, and first step in the journey of chronic pain relief.

Table of Contents