Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage between joints wear down. Osteoarthritis starts to affect your joints before you notice any symptoms. By the time the first symptoms of stiffness and pain occurs, changes in the joint may have already reached an advanced stage.

Early osteoarthritis treatment involves staying active while avoiding overuse of any particular joint. If you can strengthen your muscles, you take a load off your joints. To add calorie-burning activity into your day without hurting your joints, go for gentle movements such as swimming; do some resistance training such as lifting weights or using resistance machines at the gym, or using elastic bands; and try yoga – it is perfectly suited for people with stiff, painful joints. You may consult with a physical therapist who can give you exercises that will help avoid putting too much pressure on your arthritic joints. Your joints may hurt a little during exercise – that's normal. But if pain lasts more than 1-2 hours afterward, you're probably pushing too hard – “listen” to your body.

Losing weight also helps dramatically, by reducing additional stress on joints. Studies have shown that for a woman, moving into a normal weight category decrees osteoarthritis symptoms by 33 percent. I recommend that you regularly attend an exercise class as studies that show people who do, lose more weight than those who exercise on their own.

To feel your best, balance exercise with rest. Rest is important to help reduce inflammation and pain. Pace yourself through the day as you may have less energy than you used to, so use it wisely. Get a good night's sleep but follow these tips: do not eat large meals before bedtime; do not rely on sleep medications; avoid caffeine at night; and set a regular bedtime. A word of caution: do not rest too much as your joints may get stiff.

Taking control of the way you eat is a great way to play an active part in your osteoarthritis treatment. Talk to your doctor and dietician about the link between weight loss and improvement in osteoarthritis pain; This is to ensure that the weight loss program is both safe and effective. Plan your diet around infection-fighting foods. Prepare heart-healthy low-fat and low-carbohydrate meals. I suggest keeping low-calorie snacks on hand, such as carrots, cucumber, or celery sticks. Some nutrients have also been shown to be beneficial. These include Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, and fish oils. Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Certain dietary supplements such as glucosamine may help to relieve arthritis pain. It's best to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement.

Medicine can help reduce your symptoms of osteoarthritis and allow you to do your daily activities. It does not cure osteoarthritis or slow the time it takes for the cartilage to break down. But it can help reduce pain and stiffness, which can make it easier for your to move. It's best to consult with your doctor regarding certain health problems. You may need to try several kinds of medicines to find one that works for you. Since you'll likely take medicine for a long time, be sure to see your doctor for regular checks to look for any side effects that may develop from long-term use. Acupuncture and massage may help ease pain, as part of an overall treatment plan. Consult with your doctor before trying any new treatments. Usually, surgery is considered only when other treatments have not helped or for several cases which may need surgery to replace or repair damaged joints.

Learn to protect your joints. Bad posture can strain muscles and joints so you need to watch your post. Use chairs that support your back and sit up straight when working at a desk or table. Give your hands a break by using large joints when you can, to take pressure off your wrist and fingers. For example, carry groceries in a bag with a shoulder strap. Use mechanical aids such as long-handled jar openings, button hooks, raised toilet seats and handrails, electric appliances and toothbrushes, and knob attachments. Do not hold joints in the same position for long periods. Taking a warm bath, using a heating pad, and applying ice wrapped in a towel can ease pain and make joints less stiff. Find out what works best for you.

Adhering to the lifestyle recommendations that I mentioned can make a big difference in slowing down the progress of osteoarthritis and improving your quality of life. And the good news is you can continue to lead an active life. Stay positive and focus on what you can do and not on what may be difficult. Tell your family and friends how osteoarthritis affects you and join a support group by contacting your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation; having a good support system helps. Reduce stress and learn all you can about osteoarthritis (knowledge is power). Stick with your treatment program and ask for help when you need it.