Tips for Dealing with Arthritis Pain
May 24 2022
The Do’s and Don’ts of Managing Arthritis Pain
There are many types of arthritis, however, they are all characterized by the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints, causing pain and stiffness. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis is a leading cause of pain and disability worldwide. Managing that pain can be hard and there is plenty of advice online. But how do you know what will work for you?
Here are some basic do’s and don’ts to help you figure out just that.
Whether your pain is severe or less severe, it is easier to stay ahead of your pain.
- Do learn everything you can about your condition, including the type of arthritis and whether any of your joints are already damaged.
- Do enlist your doctor, family, and friends in helping manage your pain.
- Do tell your doctor if your pain changes.
Make sure that you are paying attention to your joints, whether you are sitting, standing, or engaging in activity.
- Do keep your joints moving. Do gentle stretches on a daily basis that move your joints through their full range of motion while staving off stiffness.
- Do use good posture. Ask your physical therapist to show you how to sit, stand, and move correctly to avoid undue stress on your joints.
- Do know your limits. Balance activity and rest.
- Don’t overdo or go past your limits as this can cause unnecessary pain.
- Do manage your weight. Being overweight can increase complications and contribute to arthritis pain. Start by making incremental, permanent lifestyle changes for gradual weight loss.
- Do quit smoking. Smoking causes stress on connective tissues, which can increase your arthritis pain.
It’s important to choose the right kinds of activities. You want exercise that builds the muscles around your joints but won’t damage the joints themselves.
- Do work with your doctor or physical therapist to develop an exercise program that is right for you.
- Do focus on stretching, range-of-motion exercises as well as gradual, progressive strength training.
- Do stick to low-impact aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling, or water exercises.
- Don’t participate in activities that are high-impact or involve relative motion. Examples of activities to avoid include running, jumping, tennis, and high-impact aerobics.
Medication can be an important part of pain management. Most arthritis drugs focus on pain relief and are relatively safe.
- Do talk honestly and openly with your doctor about your pain so they can work with you to prescribe the right medications for you.
- Do take medications prescribed by your doctor, taking them on time and correctly.
- Do pay attention to any side effects and discuss any that you experience with your doctor.
- Don’t avoid side effects, skip doses, or stop taking your medication because you feel better. Arthritis drugs are maintenance drugs, meaning you have to continue to take them to maintain your pain relief.
- Do talk with your doctor before adding any over-the counter pain medications or if over-the counter medications do not provide pain relief.
- Don’t overtreat. Talk to your doctor if you find yourself using over-the-counter pain relievers regularly.
- Don’t undertreat by ignoring severe or prolonged arthritis pain. You might have joint inflammation or damage requiring daily medication.
- Do apply over-the-counter cream containing capsaicin to painful joints, though be sure to test a small patch of skin first to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions to the cream.
- Don’t focus only on pain. Depression is common in people with arthritis. Doctors have found that treating depression with antidepressants and other therapies reduces both depression symptoms and arthritis pain.
Speaking of depression, it’s no surprise that chronic pain such as arthritis can have a negative effect on your mental and emotional health. When everyday activities cause pain, it can be discouraging. When those normal feelings escalate to create a constant refrain of fearful, hopeless thoughts, your pain can actually get worse and become harder to manage.
There are some therapies that your doctor or mental health professional might use to help you manage your emotional health including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Relaxation therapy
- Heat and cold, such as using heating pads, ice packs, taking hot baths, or using warm paraffin wax
- Massage therapy
What to avoid:
- Smoking. If you are addicted to tobacco, you might use it as an emotional coping tool. However, toxins in smoke cause stress on connective tissue, leading to more joint problems.
- Negative thoughts and attitude. Negative thoughts are self-perpetuating. When you dwell on them, they can escalate, which can increase pain. Instead, focus on activities you enjoy and spend time with people who support you. Also consider talking to a therapist if you find that you are consistently in a depressed mood.