Living with arthritis pain

Medications can ease arthritis pain, but you may be wondering if there are other options. With all of the scams out there, it’s important not to fall for treatment methods that are costly and ineffective.

Still, there are certain reputable products out there. They can complement arthritis pain medication that your doctor has prescribed. A lot of these products actually work.

Hands are one of the most common sources of arthritis pain. This is especially true in rheumatoid arthritis, where inflammation can cause swelling in your fingers and wrists. Arthritis gloves may be a solution if you find it increasingly difficult to use your hands for everyday tasks. The most basic function of arthritis gloves is compression to alleviate swelling and pain. Other types of gloves heat your hands, which may work best for osteoarthritis symptoms.

Heat is helpful when placed on any area of the body that is sore. Heat increases blood flow to the area of discomfort, which can decrease muscle pain. Try:

  • heated pads
  • microwavable hot packs
  • warm bath or shower
  • hot towels

Heat treatments tend to work best for osteoarthritis. They may increase swelling, which could worsen inflammatory arthritis pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, you should apply heat for no more than 15 minutes, three times per day.

Unlike heating pads, cold therapy is an effective tool in decreasing inflammation and acute arthritis pain. Instead of increasing blood flow and subsequent swelling, cold packs constrict blood vessels.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends using cold packs up to four times per day, at 15-minute intervals. Cold packs are affordable, and they work best for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory forms of the condition.

When cold therapy doesn’t alleviate pain and inflammation, topical ointments may be a solution. Products that contain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work best. A topical NSAID ointment works directly to decrease arthritis swelling that causes joint pain. NSAIDs are the class of pain reliever that includes Advil (ibuprofen). A topical NSAID ointment has fewer long-term gastrointestinal side effects than the oral version. Stronger topical NSAIDs require a doctor’s prescription in the United States.

Ointments containing other pain relieving ingredients that are available over-the-counter include:

  • Capsaicin (Capzasin and Zostrix): These products contain the natural substance found in hot chili peppers. They may reduce pain by blocking your skin’s pain receptors.
  • Salicylates: These ointments contain the pain reliever found in aspirin, which helps to reduce inflammation.
  • Counterirritants: These creams contain ingredients such as menthol and camphor, which help relieve pain by warming or cooling the skin.

Ironically, one of the best things you can do to help joint issues is to exercise. While it’s never a good idea to push yourself through joint pain, a regular workout routine can help relieve long-term arthritis symptoms.

Investing in basic exercise tools and equipment can help decrease pain and swelling while improving your overall health. Good tools for exercising with arthritis include:

  • treadmills
  • stationary bikes
  • elliptical machines

Better yet, invest in decent walking shoes and spend some time outdoors every day. The Arthritis Foundation recommends that you work up to exercising 30 to 40 minutes, three times per week.

There’s no questioning the fact that exercise helps alleviate and prevent arthritis pain. If you’re at the point where basic mobility is painful on your own, consider a walking aid. A walking aid helps take some of the pressure off of achy joints in various parts of your body, including:

  • knees
  • hips
  • feet

Walking aids include:

  • standard walker for minor mobility issues
  • rollator walker to decrease walking pain
  • walking cane to alleviate knee pressure

There are some products that are marketed to people with arthritis pain, but there is no research to back up their claims. Products that fall into this category include:

  • copper bracelets
  • magnets
  • beaded necklaces

If you need to change your current arthritis plan, it’s always best to work with your healthcare team. Ask your doctor how arthritis products may complement your treatment.