5 Simple Ways to Manage & Ease Arthritis Pain
By Jaime Hollander
Nearly one in four American adults – more than 54 million people – has some form of arthritis, and the numbers are expected to increase. By 2040, it’s projected that 26 percent of the population will have arthritis. With numbers like these, a majority of people will be impacted by arthritis, either personally or in helping manage a loved one’s care and comfort.
While arthritis can take many forms including gout, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, the most common type is osteoarthritis. Arthritis can cause swelling, stiffness, aching and pain in joints. Though many arthritis sufferers are able to maintain normal day-to-day function and activities, everyday activities like climbing stairs, for example, or walking even short distances can become difficult for some. And, because arthritis tends to occur in conjunction with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, managing these diverse and physically painful symptoms can be a challenge.
That said, there are a number of ways to combat arthritic symptoms to help prevent the aches and pain before they start. By leveraging these simple strategies and care plans, arthritis sufferers can improve their overall lifestyle, maximizing range of motion and boosting their physical well-being. Talk to your healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns.
1. Physical Therapy: Depending on the type of arthritis, physical therapy and related exercises can help enhance range of motion while, at the same time, strengthening muscles that surround arthritic joints and easing pain. If arthritis conditions are particularly severe, a doctor or physical therapist may even recommend splints or braces to help support affected joints. Be sure to talk to your healthcare professional before starting or revising any exercise regimen.
2. Over-the-Counter Painkillers & Topicals: Common over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help reduce arthritis pain and make everyday movement easier. Some popular go-tos include analgesics such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs like naproxen sodium and ibuprofen.
Keep in mind that not all OTC solutions are appropriate for all arthritis symptoms or all arthritis sufferers. For example, analgesics at OTC-prescribed doses can ease pain but don’t impact inflammation, a common arthritis symptom. And for those with high blood pressure or cardiovascular (or heart) disease, it may not be appropriate to take NSAIDs, as they can interfere with other medications they may be taking. Consult with a doctor or pharmacist if you have questions on which OTC medications may be right for you.
Alternatively, many arthritis sufferers opt for topical OTC treatments such as NSAID creams and gels or counterirritant ointments. These medications can be rubbed on the skin surrounding joints, soothing and alleviating aches and pains.
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3. Prescription Medications: If OTC treatments don’t provide sufficient relief, many arthritis sufferers turn to prescription solutions. Talk to your doctor about prescription medications that can help with your arthritis. Oxycodone, for example, as well as hydrocodone are commonly-prescribed analgesics that can reduce arthritic pain, as are corticosteroids such as prednisone and cortisone which, in addition to easing pain, can also reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system. For more severe cases or conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and/or biologic response modifiers can be needed to prevent everyday pain as well as long-term joint damage.
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4. Incorporating a Massage Regimen: As an alternative or companion to OTC and prescription drugs, many arthritis sufferers opt to integrate a massage regimen into their treatment. Massage can increase blood flow while warming joints, relieving pain in the short-term. A qualified massage therapist can work with you to target affected joints, and help improve comfort and ease of motion.
5. The Wellness Trifecta: Diet, Weight Loss & Exercise: Again, arthritis often appears in tandem with other chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. One in three obese Americans, for example, also sufferers from arthritis – and with obesity on the rise in the U.S., arthritis rates are expected to increase.
Exercise can have a positive impact on arthritis conditions. Even low-impact workouts like yoga and tai chi can improve flexibility, increase range of motion and ease pain. Layer in proper diet and weight loss, and arthritis sufferers have several tools at their disposal that can help improve their condition and quality of life – even losing one pound can reduce four pounds of pressure on the knees .
By tapping into one or more of these simple pain management tools and strategies, you may be able to lessen arthritic pain while improving range of motion and overall movement. Done right, this can enhance yours or a loved one’s quality of life, providing added comfort and relief in the short- and long-term.
Third-party references and links provided in this article are for educational purposes only. No sponsorship or endorsement is implied. Information was used from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic.
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