Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today

AARP The Magazine

4 Arthritis Treatments to Try Now

Nearly 27 million Americans live with this painful joint disease. But you don't have to suffer

3. Distraction

As the name implies, this procedure involves distracting the stress on a joint by creating a metal frame outside the skin around the joint and anchoring the frame surgically to the bones above and below. The frame absorbs the weight, but the real benefit comes from the bones' separating. The ends of the bones become softer, enhancing blood flow and stimulating the growth of cartilage. A study published last year in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage showed that 15 of 23 European patients with advanced osteoarthritis had substantial reduction in pain and improvement in function for two years following knee distraction.

Distraction does have drawbacks. Knee distraction is not widely available in the U.S. (most patients opt for full knee replacement). The frames stay on for months. Rehabilitation is long. And the cartilage produced may be less durable than natural cartilage. Nevertheless, Annunziato Amendola, M.D., director of the University of Iowa Sports Medicine Center, says most of his ankle-distraction patients are "doing very well."

4. Cartilage Replacement

Because it's the loss of cartilage that makes osteoarthritis so painful, researchers have focused on finding ways to replace this connective tissue. Autologous chondrocyte implantation, or ACI, involves doctors' taking a small amount of cartilage from the patient's joint, cultivating the cells, sealing the affected area and injecting the cultivated cells under the seal. For all its promise, though, ACI works only when the arthritis is contained in a relatively small area.

That's why doctors are excited about recent research published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which scientists were able to prod bone marrow stem cells to act like cartilage. "Come up with something that regenerates cartilage and you have the Holy Grail," says Eric Ruderman, M.D., professor in medicine-rheumatology at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Member Discounts! Save on eye exams, prescription drugs, hearing aids and more

You May Also Like

Visit the AARP home page every day for great deals and for tips on keeping healthy and sharp

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.



Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points