For many of the 30 million people in the U.S. who live with osteoarthritis (OA), pain is the most difficult symptom to manage.
The Arthritis Foundation conducted a survey asking people with osteoarthritis to share their current top concerns and needs, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 2,000 people responded, with 64% of survey respondents reporting they have had OA for 10 years or longer.
Patients with OA are tired of trying treatments that don’t work. They want more options to treat the pain and stiffness that are limiting their ability to do the activities they want and need to do every day.
“Pain is debilitating. My back and hip pain are so bad that I have trouble getting out of bed. Each step is excruciating, and I wonder how much longer I can deal with the pain.”
Here’s a summary of what survey respondents are telling us about living with OA.
Osteoarthritis is Difficult to Manage With So Few Options
Surgery is a last resort for many when OA pain becomes unbearable. Some report they have tried various treatments to manage OA, including anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), diet and exercise, opioids, and braces or canes. Some say they use meditation and prayer. Overall, OA patients report that more options are needed.
- 57% say their OA is managed OK, but they have good and bad days
- 32% report they have tried everything, but nothing is working and they want other options besides total joint replacement
- 16% report they cannot find and/or access a doctor who can help
What Treatments Are Helping to Manage OA Pain
Research shows that staying physically active can improve pain from arthritis. More than half of those with OA say their primary care physician helps them manage their arthritis, but 45% see a rheumatologist for their OA. For those who felt their OA is managed, these are the treatments that work:
- 65% use NSAIDs or other topicals to manage OA
- 29% rely on physical therapy, occupational therapy or massage
- 29% say a total joint replacement helped
COVID-19 is Causing More OA Pain
Patients say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their ability to manage their OA symptoms and health overall in some way. With stay–at–home orders and limited options for accessing usual treatments and physical activity routines, respondents say their pain levels have increased.
- 37% have cancelled and/or skipped health care appointments
- Of these, 59% report they cancelled because they were concerned about getting the virus
- 31% have had a virtual visit with their doctor to manage their OA
“You spend a lot of time & effort trying not to think about it because what you focus on magnifies. You hate pain scales because how do you rate something that is always there? Oftentimes it’s not the pain’s intensity but rather the duration.”
What Patients Want for the Future of Osteoarthritis Care & Treatment
With limited options in treatments for OA, patients are focused on finding ways to reduce their pain to live their best lives. The primary change patients would like to see in their health insurance is increased coverage for new arthritis treatments.
Regardless what the treatment options may be, respondents say it’s just as important to know they are preventing further joint damage.
- More than half of patients are not at all likely to adopt a treatment to reduce pain if it would also cause further damage to their joints
OA patients say investing in new research for better treatments and a cure is the most important priority for the Arthritis Foundation.
- 82% want to invest in research to explore new ways to treat and/or cure OA
- 65% want to advocate for better access to more treatments and care
- 61% want to support the development of new products to help with daily tasks
The results of this survey are clear. Patients with OA want to see more options for better treatment and care to reduce the impact arthritis pain has on their daily lives.
You can help change the future of arthritis by participating in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment. Stand up and share your experience of living with OA.
If surgery is an option you are contemplating to manage your OA, listen to the upcoming episode of the Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast on Arthritis Pain & Surgery.