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Management of osteoarthritis pain involves more than drugs

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Effective management of osteoarthritis pain involves much more than “picking up a prescription pad and pen,” according to leading rheumatologist Kenneth D. Brandt, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Head of the Rheumatology Division, Indiana University School of Medicine.

Brand believes that a comprehensive program involving both non-pharmacologic (non-drug) and pharmacologic (drug) therapy is necessary to obtain maximal improvement in joint function, reduction in joint pain, and improvement in quality of life among people with osteoarthritis.

“If we assume that we can manage osteoarthritis pain by simply writing a prescription, we will often fail,” Dr. Brandt said. “Exercise to strengthen the muscles surrounding arthritic joints; weight loss, if the person is obese, and instruction in joint protection principles form the foundation for effective osteoarthritis management.”

Dr. Brandt noted within this comprehensive approach, over-the-counter acetaminophen may be the only drug required for the relief of joint pain.

Dr. Brandt’s comments come on the heels of the newly released “Recommendations for the Medical Management of Osteoarthritis of the Hip and Knee: 2000 Update” issued by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and published in the September issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism.

The new ACR recommendations, like those issued in 1995, point out that “drug therapy for pain management is most effective when combined with non-pharmacologic strategies.” The ACR recommendation of acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) as initial drug therapy for mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis pain is based on the overall cost, effectiveness, and safety of acetaminophen.

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