Tips To Help With Arthritis Pain and Discomfort
Updated: December 29, 2021
Tips For Pain Management
Arthritis is not always bad enough to need a surgical or physical therapy treatment plan. Arthritis is not curable, but it can be managed to make life more comfortable. Since there are multiple types of arthritis, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to pain management. Take steps to reduce joint pain today with these 10 arthritis-relief tips:
1. Get Your Body Moving
Exercise is not one of the more obvious tips to help with arthritis pain, since it can be difficult to stay active when you’re stiff and in pain – but that’s exactly why you should do it. Exercise is thought to be the most effective natural treatment for reducing pain and improving range of motion in those with arthritis.1 Not only does it release endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, 2 but keeping active also builds muscle and improves the strength and flexibility of your joints.
- Yoga is a form of exercise that combines breath control, meditation, and body poses. Yoga is proven to help with arthritis symptoms.3
- Tai chi is a form of martial arts that incorporates slow and gentle movements to promote balance, strength, and flexibility.
- Water exercises offer more of a challenge than typical exercises due to the increased resistance the water provides. The water’s buoyancy also takes strain off muscles and joints, allowing you to work harder while putting less stress on your body.
2. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Some joints, such as the ankles, knees, hips, and back, are weight-bearing and are constantly working to hold the rest of the body up. If you are overweight, consider shedding a few pounds to take a bit of pressure off. The less those joints need to carry, the less strain they’re under. A lighter load could mean an improvement in mobility and could possibly prevent further damage to the joints. Find out more by checking out Everyday Health’s medically reviewed article 7 Reasons to Lose Weight When You Have Arthritis.
3. Take A Look At Your Diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet will give you more energy to exercise regularly and help you maintain your weight. In addition, some foods – those rich with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties – have been found to be especially helpful for arthritis pain and inflammation. Fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, beans, and artichokes contain antioxidants that help prevent cell damage. Lettuce, spinach, and cabbage can all have an anti-inflammatory effect. Olive oil has heart-healthy fats and oleocanthal, which has properties similar to those in anti-inflammatory drugs. Read about more foods that may help arthritis in Cleveland Clinic’s article 10 Foods That Help Ease Your Arthritis Pain.
4. Schedule A Massage
Massage is the stroking, kneading, rolling, and pressing of skin and muscles. The stimulation increases serotonin production and provides a general sense of well-being. Massage can help reduce stress, lessen pain and muscle tension, increase relaxation, and even improve immune function.4 Regularly massaging muscles with moderate pressure can also help soothe the pain of arthritis, especially when it comes to the hands and feet. Adding a warming product such as the Sombra Warm Therapy Gel can enhance the feeling of comfort.
That being said, massage is not medicine and not all types of arthritis will respond to it. Before you jump into massage, consult your doctor to make sure it is safe for your arthritis and ask whether you should see a licensed massage therapist. Massage is ultimately meant to be used in conjunction with other methods of pain relief. Check out Everyday Health’s article How Massage Therapy Helps Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain for more information.
5. Hot and Cold Therapy
Both heat and cold therapy can help relieve arthritis pain or inflammation. Heat therapy soothes stiffness and aches. Taking a long, hot shower or bath in the morning can help start your day with less pain. For a quicker, more portable solution, try a warming analgesic. The Sombra Warm Therapy Gel can be used as a heat therapy solution as well as for massage.
Cold treatments bring down swelling and reduce joint pain and inflammation. We know that taking a cold shower or bath is hardly as pleasant as a warm one, and it can be difficult to locate a package of frozen vegetables when out and about. Using an analgesic like the CryoDerm Pain Relieving Gel targets a specific area to cool and doesn’t require you to break out the frozen peas. For both hot and cold therapy in one easy-to-use wrap, try the SWT Elasto-Gel All-Purpose Therapy Wrap.
To learn more about hot and cold therapy, check out this article.
6. Find the Right Medication Regimen for You
Over the counter pain medication can help with pain and swelling triggered by arthritis. Most of the common over the counter medications can be picked up at a local grocery store if you don’t already have them in your home. According to the Arthritis Foundation, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve are or ibuprofen are some of the first medications taken by those with arthritis. Other drugs such as acetaminophen, or Tylenol, are less common but still offer pain relief. Most of them are available in tablet or liquid forms. If you have tried one and it didn’t work, consider trying a different one to see if it has a better effect. What works for someone else may not work for you. You will likely need to engage in trial and error, if you haven’t already.
Consult your doctor if you’re using over the counter medications regularly. Your doctor might decide to try a prescription medication. Prescriptions can include weekly steroid injections, stronger versions of the above NSAIDS, as well as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs. Find a list of five types of medications that treat rheumatoid arthritis and their effects here.
7. Try A Topical Pain Reliever
A topical gel is different from a traditional pain reliever because it is absorbed through the skin. Most are gels or creams, such as the China-Gel Topical Pain Reliever. Others come in spray or patch forms. The closer the joint is to the surface of the skin, the better the chance of results. Take a look at this list of The 9 Best Arthritis Creams of 2021.
8. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
This method is often used by chiropractors and physical therapists. A TENS unit, such as the BioStim INF Interferential Stimulator, uses electrodes stuck to the skin to send electronic currents into your body to override pain signals. It may also release endorphins in the brain, which may further relieve pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, TENS is shown to relieve osteoarthritis pain and reduce the need for pain medication.5
Depending on the unit, a prescription may be required. Since this method involves sending electrical pulses into your body, it’s important to consult your doctor before engaging in this kind of treatment. Read more about TENS, how it works, and how it feels here.
9. Give Acupuncture A Go
Acupuncture has been used to treat disease and pain for thousands of years. It may seem counterproductive to let someone stick needles into you for pain management, but according to the Arthritis Foundation, acupuncture research has shown that it can help with arthritis symptoms. 6
Acupuncture is the application of a needle in the skin. That needle sends a signal up the spine to the brain and triggers the release of endorphins and enkephalins, neurotransmitters that are believed to reduce pain. Acupuncture needles may also release the hormone cortisol, which helps to control inflammation.
Multiple acupuncture sessions may not be cost effective. Before booking an appointment, check with your insurance company to see if your plan covers acupuncture. You should also consult your doctor in case you need a medical referral. Learn more about acupuncture here.
10. Talk to Your Doctor
If none of these arthritis pain relief tips work or don’t work well enough, talk to your doctor. They can help you come up with a more personalized treatment regimen. Without treatment, arthritis can cause permanent damage to joints, so it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
What Is Arthritis?
Contrary to popular belief, arthritis is not a single entity. It is an informal umbrella term for joint pain or joint disease.7 Anyone can have arthritis, no matter their age, sex, or race. As of September 2020, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America.8 Common symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness, redness, and reduced range of motion. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may come and go without warning.
Treatments for Arthritis
Only a doctor can determine whether or not you have arthritis and what kind. The effectiveness of some treatments may vary depending on the kind of arthritis you have. You should always consult your doctor before you decide on a course of treatment. Such courses may include joint repair or replacement surgery, physical therapy, and various medications.
- 1Benefits of Exercise for Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/physical-activity/getting-started/benefits-of-exercise-for-osteoarthritis. (Last Accessed June-18-2021)
- 2Zelman, D. (2015, August 14). What Exercise Can Do for Your Arthritis. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/features/exercises-can-ease-arthritis-pain. (Last Accessed June-21-2021)
- 3Yoga Benefits for Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/physical-activity/yoga/yoga-benefits-for-arthritis#:~:text=People%20with%20various%20types%20of,tension%20to%20promote%20better%20sleep.&text=Many%20people%20turn%20to%20yoga,tension%20and%20improve%20joint%20flexibility. (Last accessed June-18-2021)
- 4Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021, February 21). Massage Therapy. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/massage-therapy/about/pac-20384595 . (Last Accessed June-18-2021)
- 5Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Arthritis Pain. Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/pain-relief-solutions/electrical-nerve-stimulation-for-arthritis-pain . (Last Accessed June-21-2021)
- 6Acupuncture for Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/natural-therapies/acupuncture-for-arthritis. (Last Accessed June-21-2021)
- 7What Is Arthritis? Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis. (Last Accessed June-18-2021)
- 8 Disability and Health Related Conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 16). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/relatedconditions.html. (Last Accessed June-18-2021)