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How do I Choose the Best Arthritis Pain Management?

By Barb Fitzgerald-Malone
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing the best arthritis pain management is a matter of finding the one that works for you, and that often depends on the type of arthritis being treated, whether it’s osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or one of the dozens of other forms of arthritis. The overall goal of arthritis pain management is to increase joint mobility, which strengthens the joints and, thereby, lessens the pain. Treatment options include exercise, medication, hot and cold compresses, the use of joint protection, and surgery. A combination of several of these arthritis pain management methods is often most successful.

Osteoarthritis is a common type of arthritis. When the cartilage in the bones begins to wear away, bones rub against each other, causing friction, which leads to swelling and pain. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, most often in the hands, and in the knees, the hip, and joints in the spine. Recommended treatments include acetaminophen or stronger pain killers, depending on your need; cortisone injections; physical therapy; and, if all else fails, surgery.

Gout becomes a problem when the body can't remove uric acid, a natural substance. The inability to eliminate this extra uric acid can lead to the formation of sharp crystals in the joints, which leads to swelling and severe pain. Gout affects the joints in the knees, wrists, and the big toe. Treatments include rest for the painful joint for the duration of the attack; weight control; exercise; and avoidance of alcohol, a diet rich in meats and seafood, and aspirin.

Avoiding putting added stress on the affected joints is one way to manage the pain of just about any type of arthritis. While weight control is a specific treatment for gout, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the stress on weight-bearing joints and help to ease other forms of arthritis. If you work at a job that requires repetitive movements or heavy lifting, this can further stress already irritated joints. It can also cause an injury that could lead to arthritis in those not yet suffering from it. Correct posture and proper lifting will help protect your muscles and joints, easing the pain and possibly preventing arthritis before it starts.

Hot wax treatments, available over the counter, are often used to reduce pain in the fingers and wrists of arthritis sufferers. These may be good methods to try when attempting to relieve rheumatoid arthritis, which can affect any joint of the body but commonly affects the hands, wrists and knees. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's joints, causing the lining of the joints to swell. This inflammation can spread to surrounding tissues, which can eventually damage the cartilage and bone. Severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the skin, eyes and nerves.

Heat wraps for your hands, knees, and other joints also provide temporary pain relief. Anti-inflammatory medications provide pain relief, but long-term use of anti-inflammatories can lead to other problems. Always consult your doctor about the best arthritis pain management for you, because everyone experiences pain — and pain relief — differently.

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