Living With Arthritis: Relieving Pain

Arthritis is characterized by joint inflammation, reduced joint flexibility, damage to the joints, and … pain. Many medications are available on the market to help treat pain caused by arthritis, but there are also other forms of treatment available.

When looking at methods for treating arthritis pain, it is important to remember that you should talk with your health care provider about the pain you’re experiencing and also about any pain relief methods that you use.

The pain relief methods discussed below are temporary, designed to be helpful when joints hurt more than usual. This may be after completing an exercise program, after a strenuous day or during stressful times. Not all of the methods described below will work for you – it’s important to experiment to find out what works best.

Heat and cold treatments. Heat and cold treatments are among the most common types of temporary pain relief. At home, heat can be used in the form of heat packs, warm baths or showers, warm towels applied to the affected area, etc. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), heat treatment can be used for 15 to 20 minutes, three times a day. Heat treatments work because they help to relax muscles and reduce sensitivity to pain.

For some people, or for some types of pain, cold treatments may be more effective in providing relief. Cold compresses or ice packs can help to reduce swelling. When using ice packs, never put ice directly on your skin. Always wrap it in a towel or washcloth first. If you don’t have a cold compress, try using a bag of frozen vegetables (many people find that frozen peas are particularly helpful because you can shape the bag around the swollen joint).

Relaxation therapy. Relaxation therapy can help to reduce pain by relaxing tension in the muscles. Your doctor or local Arthritis Foundation can provide information about relaxation therapy. In some forms, relaxation therapy can involve a focused effort to relax tension in each muscle. In other forms, it may involve massage or therapies.

Sleep. Sleep is often overlooked in dealing with pain. A lack of quality sleep can lead to fatigue, and make you more sensitive to pain. Try to relax before bed by taking a warm bath or reading a book. If you are having trouble sleeping due to arthritis pain, consult your health care provider for treatment options.

TENS. If your pain is not relieved by any of the above methods, you may want to talk with your doctor about TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. In TENS therapy, a device is used to deliver an electrical current under the skin. TENS machines can be adjusted throughout the day as needed for pain relief. Many TENS machines are expensive, though lest costly versions are available and effective.


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