All forms of arthritis share a common symptom: joint pain.
People with various forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA), often experience swelling, aching, and burning joints.
Constant discomfort and pain can severely impact your quality of life, but there are many ways to reduce arthritis symptoms, with topical treatments, medications, and more.
Read on to learn how to manage aches and pains associated with arthritis.
Topical creams, salves, balms, and lotions are a good choice if you’re looking for fast relief from sudden pain flare-ups.
Common ingredients in pain relief products include:
Camphor and menthol deliver a cooling or warming sensation that can help distract you from pain. Salicylates combat inflammation, and capsaicin, derived from hot peppers, blocks pain receptors.
Topical cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis compound free of hallucinogenic effects, may also help with arthritis pain.
While there’s limited research on CBD’s effects on humans with arthritis, anecdotally, people find CBD helps with arthritis symptoms, like pain and inflammation.
Over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs are often the first thing people reach for when they’re aching and in pain.
Common NSAIDs include:
- ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- naproxen (Aleve)
By preventing your body from producing chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause inflammation, NSAIDs can help with arthritis-related pain and swelling.
Because NSAIDS can be hard on the stomach, it’s a good idea to take them with food, and always follow the manufacturer guidelines, never taking more than recommended.
Keep in mind that, while NSAIDs can help provide temporary relief, they’re not a long-term solution. Overuse of NSAIDS can cause gastrointestinal issues and other serious side effects when used for an extended period.
You might also find relief by taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), which may help with pain related to OA and inflammatory arthritis.
A degenerative condition like OA can cause a loss of cartilage. With less cushioning between your joints, you’re likely to experience pain and swelling.
Glucosamine is a supplement typically derived from animal cartilage and often paired with chondroitin, another compound found in cartilage.
Taking these supplements may help protect cartilage, slow its erosion, and ultimately reduce symptoms, like pain and inflammation.
While study results are mixed on either supplement’s effectiveness, there’s some evidence they may help curb joint pain.
Research shows both ingredients are safe, so you can try them without worrying about nasty side effects.
Since supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin, can interact with medications, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking them. These supplements, for example, can interact with blood thinners, like warfarin.
When your joints start to swell and ache, you may find applying a cold or warm compress helps soothe unhappy joints. Like topical ingredients that cool or warm the skin, a cold or hot compress can help distract you from pain and limit swelling.
And according to the Arthritis Foundation, heat therapy, which can help improve circulation, may be useful for loosening up stiff joints.
If you don’t have a warm compress handy, you can try the following to immediately soothe stiff, achy joints:
- Take a hot shower.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Head to your local indoor pool.
If you notice your swelling and inflammation worsening with heat therapy, consider using cold therapy instead.
Cold therapy works to reduce blood flow, helping to limit swelling. A cold compress can also deliver a numbing effect when applied directly to the affected area.
One 2016 study involving 121 participants with arthritis found that a full body cold mist treatment helped significantly reduce pain and even improve sleep quality.
Two of the most common forms of arthritis, RA and OA, are progressive conditions that can worsen without medical treatment.
RA, an autoimmune inflammatory condition, can even affect other parts of your body, like your vital organs, if left untreated.
Thankfully, treatments exist that can help slow disease progression and improve your symptoms. These include:
- disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), including biologics
- corticosteroid injections
- prescription-strength NSAIDs
- prescription-strength topicals
Talk with your doctor if you think you have arthritis or notice your symptoms getting worse despite your current treatment plan.
Your arthritis pain doesn’t have to interfere with your life. With the help of your doctor, you can find a combination of strategies and treatments that help lessen challenging symptoms, like pain, swelling, and inflammation.