Arthritis is a leading cause of disability worldwide. The pain of arthritis can be excruciating. Everyone with arthritis has heard a lot of advice on easing the pain with exercise, medication, and by reducing stress. But how do you know which will work best for you? The Mayo Clinic offers these do’s and don’ts of arthritis.
Stay ahead of the pain: Talk to your doctor about your symptoms even if they don’t seem to be related to arthritis. It’s not uncommon for seemingly unrelated problems to be connected. Be sure your doctor has all the information about your medical conditions and medications, including supplements and over-the-counter medications you take. Ask your doctor for a clear definition of the type of arthritis you have and find out if any of your joints have already been damaged. Take the medications your rheumatologist prescribes or recommends. Don’t wait until the pain is unbearable before seeking treatment.
Routines that may help: By doing gentle exercises in the evening you should find morning stiffness is eased. If you’re sitting adjust your position frequently. Tilt your neck from side to side, bend and stretch your legs, and change the position of your hands periodically. Stand and walk around every 30 minutes or so. Pace yourself when you’re active. Overusing a single joint will cause even more pain. Manage your weight by making incremental but permanent changes that lead to weight loss. Smoking causes stress on connective tissue leading to more pain. If you smoke, quit.
The right kinds of movement should help: Exercise can decrease pain, improve range of motion, increase endurance, and strengthen muscles. Choose activities that build muscles around the joints but don’t damage the joints themselves. A physical therapist can develop an exercise routine that’s right for you. Your focus should be on range-of-motion exercises, stretching, and gradual strength training. Low-impact aerobics like walking, cycling, or water exercises will help you control weight and improve your mood. Avoid activities that are repetitive in motion and/or high impact like running, jumping, tennis, high-impact aerobics, and repetitive motions exercises. Tennis, with it’s over and over swing of the racket is an example.
Medications: There are many different medications available to treat arthritis pain. Although no medication is completely free of side effects most are safe. Your doctor can formulate a medication plan for your specific pain. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with occasional pain that’s triggered by activity your muscles and joints aren’t used to; gardening after a winter spent mostly indoors is an example. Topical analgesics such as creams that contain capsaicin ma help. These can be used along with medication. Consult your doctor about help if over-the-counter medications aren’t enough to relieve the pain. If you find yourself using over-the-counter pain remedies regularly talk to your doctor about alternatives. Some antidepressants can help with both arthritis pain and the depression that pain and not being able to do what you want can cause.
Physical and emotional therapies: When just doing everyday activities causes pain it’s easy to feel discouraged. This negative effect on your mood can actually make pain worse. There are therapies that may help you feel better both physically and emotionally. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a combination of talk therapy and behavior modification can help you identify and break cycles of self-defeating thought and actions. Relaxation therapy can help ease pain. Meditating, yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, being outdoors in nature, and writing in a journal can all help you relax. Find the thing that makes you feel best and do it regularly. Massage may improve stiffness and pain. Be sure your massage therapist knows you have arthritis and where. Some therapists even have special certifications for people with chronic pain conditions. Acupuncture may help you with pain relief. Heat and cold therapy can aid in pain relief. Applying heating pads to painful joints (for no more than 20 minutes at a time), taking hot baths, or immersing painful joints in warm paraffin wax can reduce pain temporarily. Ice packs applied to sore muscles can relieve inflammation and pain after strenuous exercise. Resist having a negative attitude. This can actually lead to increased pain.