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How Can I Manage Arthritis Pain?

A healthy hip and one with osteoarthritis.
An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis.
Swimming does not put pressure on joints, making it a great exercise for arthritis pain management.
Medications, exercise, and surgery may all be used to manage arthritis pain.
Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Managing arthritis pain can be difficult, but finding effective ways of dealing with it is crucial, as arthritis affects a person not just physically, but also emotionally and physiologically. It can even cause a person to feel depressed enough to isolate himself from his friends and family members. Sometimes arthritis pain can even make it difficult or impossible for a person to function well at work.

Many people think of arthritis as a single condition. In fact, there are many different conditions that fall under this heading. For the purpose of figuring out how to manage arthritis pain, it may help to determine what type of category the patient’s arthritis falls under. One type is acute arthritis pain, which is temporary in nature. Chronic pain, on the other hand, may last for months or years; it can even haunt a person for an entire lifetime.

In some cases, acute arthritis pain can be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Even aspirin may help. If pain is very difficult to bear, even if it is temporary, a prescription pain medication may be a better option. Other methods of dealing with arthritis pain include applying heat and cold and stabilizing the joint using a brace, which allows achy joints to get some rest.

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Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which is performed by a device that uses electrical pulses to help stop pain messages from reaching the brain, may be good for short-term relief. Massage may also provide a measure of pain relief by increasing blood flow to the painful area. However, it is best to avoid massaging joints that are inflamed or causing the patient significant discomfort.

For those with chronic arthritis pain, a range of medications may be used. Among them are biological-response modifiers, which block the reaction of certain substances in the body, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which work to relieve pain and inflammation. Disease-modifying drugs may be used for managing pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis that is not relieved by other methods. They work by targeting immune system issues. Corticosteroids, which are a type of hormone, may be used to help with the reduction of inflammation.

Besides medication to manage pain, there are certain things a person may do to help relieve discomfort caused by arthritis. For example, losing excess weight may help a person to relieve daily stress on the joints. Exercise, in particular things like low-impact aerobics, walking, and even swimming, can help not only to reduce discomfort, but also to relieve stiffness. Some doctors even recommend stretching for managing this condition. Physical therapy may also help some patients.

In some cases, medication and other management measures may not provide adequate relief. In such a case, surgery may be an option. For example, surgery may be used to fix joint alignment. It may also be used to replace a joint with an artificial alternative.

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