Managing Joint Pain
Many people start to feel pain and stiffness in their joints as they get older, often when they’re 45 to 50. It’s called arthritis, and it’s one of the most common diseases nationwide.
A joint is the connection between two bones. Joints and their surrounding structures allow you to bend your elbows and knees, bend your back, turn your head, and wave your fingers.
Smooth tissue called cartilage and a fluid called synovium cushion the joints so bones do not rub together. But increasing age, injury, poor posture or carrying too much weight can wear and tear your cartilage. This can lead to inflammation (arthritis) and other problems that can damage your joints.
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is usually caused by normal wear and tear, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Other types of arthritis can be caused by uric acid crystals, infections or even an underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus.
Joint Pain Management
Patients suffering from joint pain should speak to their doctor. Some therapies the doctor may recommend are:
- anti-inflammatory medications, which can reduce the inflammation caused by the disease, and relieve pain
- referral to a physiotherapist to implement an exercise program, strengthen muscles and improve the range of motion of the patient’s joints
- referral to an occupational therapist to assist with practical solutions for everyday life
There are two broad types of medication commonly prescribed for arthritis: drugs which control symptoms (such as painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs), and drugs that treat the disease itself (usually used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis and prevent further destruction of the joints). Patients can help themselves and their treatment by understanding which types of medication they are on, how long they may take to work, and what side effects they may expect. Patients can discuss medications with their pharmacist or rheumatologist.
Managing Daily Activities
The pain and fatigue associated with arthritis can make even the simplest of activities difficult. Fortunately, there are now many alternatives available to help arthritis patients, including orthotics and splints, as well as assistive devices that can help with activities like opening jars and cans, peeling vegetables, and getting in and out of the bathtub. Pharmacists can also dispense medications with easier-to-open caps. Patients seeking more information on arthritis products should consult their rheumatologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, or pharmacist.
Alternative Pain Relief Therapies
There are many alternative therapies available to patients looking for arthritis pain management, including the following:
- TENS unit therapy at a physiotherapy clinic
- applying hot packs or cold packs to joints and muscle
- guided imagery and self-hypnosis, facilitated by a psychologist
You should always consult your doctor before trying a new treatment for arthritis, and remember that not all things work equally for all people. It is often a combination of techniques and treatments that can make living with arthritis manageable for patients. Patients concerned about their level of pain relief should consult their health professional for further treatment options.