The best medicine for arthritis is regular exercise

Dear Dr Roach, What is the best medicine for arthritis? My doctor prescribed diclofenac sodium, and another doctor said it will damage my liver and kidney with prolonged use. As you know, arthritis is a chronic disease. Let me know what medicine I can use for arthritis.

— AA

Dear AA: I’m assuming you mean osteoarthritis, the most common type, not an inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis. If you don’t know which type you have, ask your doctor, since inflammatory arthritis needs very different and aggressive treatment.

The best medicine for osteoarthritis probably isn’t medicine; it’s exercise. For people who are early on in the course of arthritis, a regular exercise program improves both pain and function, but for people with more advanced arthritis, exercise may become more difficult to do. Severe hip and knee arthritis often benefit from swimming, where the load is taken off the joints and allows for less painful movement.

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