There are many ways to manage arthritis pain and get pain relief. Knowledge is power. Find out all you can about pain treatments that are available for you. The more you know, the more you can do.
Take care of your body
- Eat well. To stay as healthy as possible, give your body the best nourishment it needs. You can start making healthier food choices today. Instead of potato chips, reach for an apple and a handful of nuts to snack on.
- Improve your posture. Good posture can prevent future arthritis pain. Years of compensating for a sore knee can result in pain in a hip or ankle. Jutting the abdomen forward can cause lower back pain, as can slouching in a desk chair. Consult a physical therapist. A physical therapist can observe how you sit, stand and walk and teach you how to adjust your posture so you can move with less pain.
- Stay active. Regular exercise strengthens muscles that support the joints and improves flexibility and balance. To start, try a 20–30 minute walk four times a week. If you are new to exercise, a physical therapist can suggest appropriate movements that will improve your strength and range of motion.
- Take a break. Balance activity with periods of rest. Rest can help reduce inflammation. If you need to, take time out to relax your entire body by lying down for 15 minutes. Or allow a specific joint to rest by wearing a brace or splint. Letting yourself refresh mentally and physically can reduce arthritis pain and restore energy.
Use Heat and Cold
Warming tissues eases arthritis pain by increasing blood flow to affected areas, which decreases inflammation, relaxes tight muscles, and eliminates waste products, like lactic acid, that cause stiffness and soreness. Cold decreases blood flow to reduce swelling, slows the transmission of pain signals through nerves, and inhibits inflammatory chemicals. Here are some ways to soothe joint pain with heat and cold at home:
- Warm bath. Taking a warm bath can bring immediate pain relief to sore and stiff joints. If you have respiratory or cardiac problems that may keep you from using warm water therapy, or if you are older than 70 (as we age, our bodies do not regulate heat as well), check with your doctor before trying this method. If only your hands or feet are affected, you may try soaking them in a tub with warm water.
- Heating Pad. Electric heating pads are a good choice for relieving lower back pain, neck pain, pain in the knee and other body parts. Be sure to follow directions for use to prevent burns. Do not use electric pads along with heat-inducing creams. Try microwaveable pads or heating pads with automatic off-switches in case you doze off.
- Heat wrap. Low-level continuous heat wraps can be worn on various parts of the body, including the neck, elbow, lower back, and knee, without coming off. You can even sleep with it on!
- Alternate warm and cold. Try alternating soaks in warm and cold water, especially if you have swelling. Fill one sink with cold water (65 degrees Fahrenheit) and another with warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit). Leave your hands or feet in the warm water for five to 10 minutes, and then switch to cold for one minute. Return to the warm for three to four minutes, and then switch to cold for another minute. Repeat this four or five times.
- Wax. Coating hands or feet in melted paraffin wax traps the heat on your sore joints. Leave wax on while it cools and hardens, then peel away. In addition to easing arthritis pain, the wax softens your skin.
- Cool it off. To do a 10-minute ice massage, fill up small paper or foam cups about one third full and freeze them. When ready to use, peel away the top of the cup to expose the ice and gently slide over the painful area. Try to avoid the bony parts of the joint, such as the knee cap and elbow points. Cover the affected area with a plastic wrap before applying the ice to protect the skin, and place a towel underneath to pick up the moisture as the ice melts. You can also use ice cubes wrapped in plastic for smaller areas. Cold packs and wraps applied for 15 to 30 minutes may also relieve sore lower back or shoulders.
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