man holding his knee

Arthritis pain can really stop you in your tracks and make you lose motivation to do much of anything. Understandably, pain can be overwhelming and depressing. With so many Americans suffering from arthritis, it is important to understand how they feel and work together to treat the pain.  So, we are continuing our arthritis discussion this month by focusing on the many options available for arthritis pain relief.

Often, a combination of several treatments works best, for instance, prescription medication along with physical therapy or light exercise. As you work closely with your doctor to make sure certain treatments or methods are right for you, you might try some of the following:

Stretching 

Simple, gentle stretching of the muscles throughout your body can relieve stress on your joints and build flexibility. The Mayo Clinic suggests you spend some time stretching while sitting on the couch in the evening, watching your favorite TV show or talking to a friend. Use that time to periodically, and gently stretch the muscles in your legs, arms, hands, neck, etc. Stretch for a short period of time, then rest, then stretch some more. For a more thorough stretching workout, if your doctor approves, try yoga or tai-chi.

Exercise

Though arthritis pain may make you want to stop moving all together, that is the last thing you should do. When you don’t feel like moving, often that is a sign that you should get up and move as much as you can. Certain low-impact exercises can strengthen joints and relieve arthritis pain. The Mayo Clinic also recommends “low-impact exercise, such as walking, aerobics or water exercise,” but warns that those with arthritis should “avoid running, jumping, tennis, high-impact aerobics” and any exercise that includes repeating the same movements over and over again. Some people with arthritis have found that regular sessions with a physical therapist are helpful.

Weight Loss

Yes, it’s easier said than done, and we hear it over and over, but it’s true: losing weight and maintaining your ideal body weight are a large part of relieving arthritis pain and remaining healthy and mobile throughout your life. The Arthritis Foundation puts it into perspective: “Losing just 10 pounds of body weight takes 30 to 60 pounds of pressure off the knee.” Less pressure on joints equals less pain!

Medical Treatment

Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available for arthritis pain relief. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) recommends acetaminophen as the initial treatment for osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.” If acetaminophen doesn’t take care of your pain, talk to your doctor to find out which prescription medication, if any, is right for you. There are various prescription pills, injections and creams that can assist with reducing pain and swelling.

Sometimes, when pain can’t be relieved by other methods, surgery may be necessary to replace worn out joints, such as knees or hips. Often, those who’ve suffered from severe arthritis symptoms find they have less pain and better motion after surgery.

Non-medical Treatment

The list of alternative pain relief methods for arthritis is long, and some treatments may work for one patient, but not for another. One simple pain relief method is hot or cold compresses or soaks. You may prefer one or the other, or rotating both back and forth between hot and cold.

Certain nutritional supplements may be helpful. Some studies have found the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin may help relieve pain or even build stronger joints. Also, fish and fish oil supplements have natural anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce swelling in joints.

Acupuncture has even been found to relieve pain in some patients. The Arthritis Foundation says, “The largest acupuncture study ever conducted shows that the technique significantly reduced pain and improved function for 570 patients with knee osteoarthritis who had moderate or severe pain despite taking anti-inflammatory or pain medications.” But as with many non-medical methods, it took time before those in the study noticed any pain relief, so don’t give up too quickly when trying alternative methods of pain relief. However, if you don’t notice any relief after six months or so, it’s time to try something new.

Positive Attitude

A positive attitude makes a big difference in your health. Depression and discouragement lead to inactivity, which can lead to more arthritis pain. The Center for Disease Control points out that 18% of patients with arthritis suffer from depression. Pain is discouraging and you are not alone. Keeping a positive attitude, despite the pain you may feel, can help motivate you to keep trying different methods of pain relief and to keep enjoying life, no matter what. Consult with your doctor to see if anti-depressants might help. Most of all, embrace the positive things in your life, surround yourself with good friends and family members, participate in your favorite activities as much as possible—and if you can no longer do certain activities, find new ones that you love.

Arthritis pain can be discouraging and overwhelming. Reach out to those you love who may be suffering. Show compassion. Listen—and don’t try to dismiss their pain. Arthritis pain is real.

If you suffer from arthritis, consult with your doctor and make your health a top priority. Take action and start working today to find a combination of pain relief methods that work for you.

Read more about arthritis:

“Arthritis: Not an Inevitable Part of Aging”

“World Arthritis Day”