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Understanding the Opportunity Cost in Managing Degenerative Arthritis: A Research-Backed Approach


Degenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis, is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Its management often involves a trade-off between immediate relief and long-term health outcomes, presenting a clear case of opportunity cost. This blog post will explore the concept of opportunity cost in the context of degenerative arthritis, supported by current research.

Opportunity Cost in Degenerative Arthritis Management

Opportunity cost refers to the potential benefits an individual misses out on when choosing one alternative over another. In the context of degenerative arthritis, it could mean choosing a treatment versus doing nothing. Treatment often ranges from topical medications to total joint replacement.

  1. Immediate Relief vs. Long-term Health Outcomes: Many patients opt for medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for immediate pain relief. However, research suggests that long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to adverse effects like gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular risks, and kidney damage (Bally et al., 2017). Here, the opportunity cost can be the potential long-term health risks associated with immediate pain relief.
  2. Invasive Treatments vs. Lifestyle Modifications: Another decision point is between invasive treatments such as injections and/or joint replacement surgery. There are a variety of injections that can be done for osteoarthritis including steroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections, regenerative injections (i.e. platelet rich plasma), and genicular nerve ablation procedures. While surgical interventions provide quicker relief, they come with risks like infection and complications from anesthesia (Kremers et al., 2013). On the other hand, lifestyle changes like weight management and exercise show benefits in reducing pain and improving function in arthritis patients (Messier et al., 2013). However, these require time and commitment – the opportunity cost being the immediate relief provided by surgical interventions.
  3. Economic Costs The economic aspect of opportunity cost also plays a significant role. The direct costs of treatments like surgery are relatively high, and the indirect costs of recovery time and lost productivity also add up (Losina et al., 2015). In contrast, lifestyle modifications and physical therapy present lower economic costs, but require a longer time for noticeable improvements.


Managing degenerative arthritis involves making choices that come with their own opportunity costs. Research underscores the importance of weighing these costs – both health and economic – to make informed decisions. While immediate relief is a crucial consideration, the potential long-term health benefits and lower economic costs of non-invasive methods should not be overlooked. As with any health-related decision, it’s essential to have these discussions with your healthcare provider, considering your personal circumstances and preferences.


  • Bally, M., Dendukuri, N., Rich, B., Nadeau, L., Helin-Salmivaara, A., Garbe, E., & Brophy, J. M. (2017). Risk of acute myocardial infarction with NSAIDs in real-world use: Bayesian meta-analysis of individual patient data. BMJ, 357, j1909.
  • Kremers, H. M., Larson, D. R., Crowson, C. S., Kremers, W. K., Washington, R. E., Steiner, C. A., … & Maradit Kremers, H. (2013). Prevalence of total hip and knee replacement in the United States. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 97(17), 1386-1397.
  • Messier, S. P., Mihalko, S. L., Legault, C., Miller, G. D., Nicklas, B. J., DeVita, P., … & Loeser, R. F. (2013). Effects of intensive diet and exercise on knee joint loads, inflammation, and clinical outcomes among overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis: the IDEA randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 310(12), 1263-1273.
  • Losina, E., Walensky, R. P., Reichmann, W. M., Holt, H. L., Gerlovin, H., Solomon, D. H., … & Katz, J. N. (2015). Impact of obesity and knee osteoarthritis on morbidity and mortality in older Americans. Annals of internal medicine, 152(6), 369-378.

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