Flexible options catering to the need of patients can go a long way in managing osteoarthritis, says a review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS).

The reviewers examined both surgical and non-surgical treatments available for younger patients with knee arthritis to determine the best course of action for patients who want to continue to participate in demanding sports.

Unlike elderly patients, where pain reduction and basic mobility are the two primary goals, younger, more active patients require more flexible treatment programs to allow them to remain as active as they would like, noted the lead author Brian Feeley, M.D., assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, University of California, San Francisco.

"There is an increasing trend in the United States of people who want to stay active in sports and recreational activities after the age of 40. These patients are not content with being told to stop what they love doing," said Dr. Feeley.

Therefore, orthopaedic surgeons and other physicians need to come up with different treatment strategies, including non-operative treatments or even cartilage restoration procedures, to address pain and functionality and to help keep patients as active as possible.

Some of the patients suffering from osteoarthritis may eventually require surgery. But most of the cases can be managed through non-operative procedures such as bracing, viscosupplementation (injection of hyaluronic acid), and activity modification.

Anti-inflammatory medication could also be used initially, to see if the symptoms resolve or if there is enough improvement to make surgery unnecessary, Dr Feeley averred. In a vast majority of cases, the onset of arthritis is a slow, degenerative process and therefore there is rarely a need to rush to surgery.

Although alternative treatments like acupuncture, glucosamine and chondroitin may be incorporated into an overall treatment plan, currently there is no strong clinical evidence supporting the efficacy of these alternative-types of treatment, he added.