Osteoarthritis, or Degenerative Bone Disease, is the most common form of arthritis and is usually caused by wear-and-tear of the body or by injury and results in pain and stiffness of the joints. In this article, we will present an overview of the many techniques for handling pain and give you some ideas for how to deal with osteoarthritis pain.
Exercise is the most frequent non-drug recommendation for easing the pain of osteoarthritis. That seems counter intuitive when it hurts just to walk to the mailbox but with some trial and error, you will be able to determine which forms of exercise will work best for you.
One of the goals of exercise is to build the muscles that support the joints that are affected by osteoarthritis. A physical therapist will be able to recommend exercises to improve range of motion as well as building strength.
Start Slowly. If you are not used to exercising regularly, start slowly and work your way up. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise, five times per week is a good goal. Ten minutes at a time, three times each day may be easier for you than doing all thirty minutes at once and is just as beneficial.
Suggested exercise: For some, an exercise bike works well while others prefer walking or more gentle water aerobics. There are many possibilities and it may be more fun to mix them up a bit. Tai Chi and Yoga are both low-impact and may be good options for you to consider.
Rest and avoid activities that cause pain. Listen to your body’s cues. Exercise is vital but it is also important to balance it with adequate rest and to avoid overusing your body in ways that will worsen pain.
Lose weight to take the stress off of your joints, especially the knees. Even 10 pounds can make a big difference in mobility and pain level. In addition, losing weight contributes to an overall feeling of well-being. The Meditteranean Diet and Keto Diet are both recommended for patients with arthritis.
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Apply heat. Heat relaxes muscles and eases the pain of osteoarthritis. Applied before and after exercise, it often prevents pain and stiffness. There are many types of heating pads available for purchase or you can make your own by wetting and microwaving a towel and placing it in a plastic bag. Hot showers, Jacuzzi, or hot tubs are also options.
Cold packs are helpful for many people but are most useful to treat swelling. Sometimes, alternating heat and cold will relieve pain. Again, it’s best to experiment to find out what works best for you.
Massage is great for relaxation which alleviates pain and stiffness and allows for better range of motion and flexibility. In addition, massage decreases stress which contributes to an overall feeling of well being.
Meditation: An eight-week study at UVA concluded that meditation is helpful in reducing the pain of knee osteoarthritis. Meditation is something that can be done independently and safely without the aid of a therapist or guide.
Change your shoes to reduce the force exerted on knee joints. Shoes with flat soles, such as sneakers or flip-flops are most recommended, although flip-flops are a poor choice for those with balance issues. Heels, even low ones, are not recommended. Clogs are another poor choice because they increase stress to the knees.
CBD oils have become a popular choice for relieving the pain and difficulty sleeping that is caused by osteoarthritis. You can read more about that in this article: How Does CBD Oil Help Arthritis?
Essential oils can be used in many ways to help alleviate the pain from osteoarthritis. Some oils are beneficial when applied to the skin, others can be consumed or diffused into the air to create a relaxing atmosphere. Deep Blue Rub is a topical creme from doTERRA that is made with essential oils and other ingredients to ease pain.
What you eat can have an impact on pain levels. Choose plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain high levels of antioxidants. Omega 3 Fatty Acids may help reduce joint pain. Vitamin C is an important component of bone health and vitamin D can help prevent cartilage from breaking down. Turmeric (curcumin) provides natural pain relief, reduces inflammation, and has many additional health benefits.
Foods to avoid include sugar and saturated fats, which can cause weight gain and other problems such as inflammation or weakened cartilage.
There are many medications that will relieve the pain of osteoarthritis, some available by prescription and others over the counter. They come in the form of pills, sprays, creams, lotions, or injections. Start with the options that have the fewest side effects at the lowest dose that provides comfort. It is important to discuss any preexisting conditions with your doctor to avoid complications.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are natural components of cartilage and are available as supplements that seem to be safe and free from side effects. Although research results are mixed, they appear to offer excellent pain relief for some people. Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) is a less common option but has not been through as much testing. These supplements available over-the-counter, either separately or in combined form.
Next in line for safety would be analgesics, which relieve pain by blocking pain signals but they do not reduce inflammation.
Non-narcotic analgesics are available over the counter and include Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol) which has the lowest number of side-effects when the recommended dose is not exceeded. However, when taken regularly with alcohol, Acetaminophen can increase the risk of liver damage. It is available in capsules, tablets, or liquid form. Ultram (tramadol) is
Topical Analgesics are sold over-the-counter and are applied to the joint externally. Common ingredients include wintergreen oil, camphor, and eucalyptus.
Opioid analgesics are made from the opium poppy and are powerful pain blockers but they also have many side effects and can be addictive. They may cause drowsiness, which makes it unsafe to drive or operate machinery while using them. Darvon (propoxyphene), Vicodin (acetaminophen/hydrocodone), and Percocet (acetaminophen and oxycodone) are commonly prescribed opioids.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective at reducing inflammation and pain but they have more side effects than acetaminophen. Some possible problems are stomach upset or bleeding, cardiovascular issues, and liver or kidney damage. NSAIDs are non-narcotic and therefore non-addictive and non-sedating. Talk to your doctor before taking NSAIDs long-term so that you can be monitored for side-effects.
These Oral NSAIDs are available over the counter, as are many others: Aspirin (Bayer or St. Joseph’s), Advil or Motrin IB (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Celebrex (celecoxib)
Topical NSAIDs such as aspercreme, are over-the-counter cremes and are rubbed on your joints with few side effects. Additional drops, gels, sprays or patches are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
Injections of steroids such as cortisone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone are sometimes used to reduce inflammation and can provide relief for up to several months. These shots are usually only given two to three times a year, not more than four.
Hyaluronic acid injections can be given more frequently and are used for damaged cartilage.
As you can see, there are many options to help in dealing with the pain from osteoarthritis. This is just a sampling to give you an idea of what topics are worthy of trying or researching in more depth.
In addition to the ones mentioned here, your doctor may also recommend the following: TENS unit: (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), peripheral nerve stimulation, pain pump, facet joint denervation, deep brain stimulation, or even surgery.
Please comment below and share your experiences with osteoarthritis pain and let us know if you have found other ways to alleviate the pain or discomfort.