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Tips for Controlling Pain in Arthritis

Tip #2

Pain is common in most types of arthritis. Pain can stop you from doing the things you want or need to do.  What many people don’t know is that arthritis pain can be controlled.  Here are several tips for controlling pain.

Take the right type and dose of medication:  There are many medications on the market that can control pain.  However, they only work if they are taken correctly.  Work with your healthcare professional to find the medication and dosage that works for you.  Be sure to tell your healthcare professional if a medication stops working, if you develop side effects, or if you have any changes in your other medications.
Exercise:  Numerous studies have found that exercise reduces pain and increases energy.  Your local Arthritis Foundation may offer classes designed for people with arthritis.  Talk with your healthcare professional first, to make sure exercise is safe for you, then contact your local gym or Arthritis Foundation branch.
Get enough sleep:  With our busy schedules, we often don’t get enough sleep.  If you are sleeping less than 7 – 8 hours per day, you may be making your pain worse.  Practice good sleep habits and get a good night’s sleep.  If you still feel tired, get checked for sleep apnea, a serious sleep problem in which a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. 
Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing, etc.:  Relaxation is more than just sitting with a good book.  It is a method to calm and control your body and mind.  Learning to relax is a skill that takes practice.  There are many ways to relax, so find the one that works best for you.  Consider taking a class such as yoga, buying relaxation tapes, or researching techniques from reputable sources online (such as the Mayo Clinic or WebMD).  Find time to practice relaxation daily.
Understand that emotions play an important part in your disease management:  Anger, fear, doubt, and other negative emotions can make your pain worse.  There are techniques you can use to recognize and control negative emotions.  Look for information online or talk with a healthcare professional to help develop skills to control negative emotions.
Control trigger events:  Certain things you do will increase pain (triggers).  Learn what these are and eliminate or reduce them.  One way to do this is to track what you do and your pain level, and then look for patterns.
Be kind to your joints:  Arthritis affects many joints in your body. Bearing weight or putting that joint in an awkward position can add stress to the already damaged joints.  You can work with your healthcare professional to identify activities that put your joints at risk and identify ways to eliminate them.  The general rule of thumb to protect your joints is to use the largest joint for the job; for example, carrying a bag over the elbow rather than held with the fingers.
Put out flares: Sometimes you will experience an increase in pain (flares).  Learn ways to reduce sudden pain.  This might include massage, stretches, or analgesics (pain relievers).  Applying moist heat may feel good, but if the joint is swollen, applying cold compresses (no more than 20 minutes at a time) will bring the swelling down.  Find methods to distract yourself – read a book, play a game, visit a friend, go for a walk – any activity that will take your mind away from the pain.
Eat well:  Good nutrition is important for a healthy body.  Eat a balanced, moderate diet.  There is some evidence that certain foods can improve or worsen pain.  If you believe a food is causing pain, remove it from your diet for a month to see if the pain improves. But don’t eliminate an entire category of food (such as fat or protein).

Make yourself comfortable:  Sometimes our homes or offices don’t fit us well, chairs are too hard, counters are too low, and rooms are too cluttered.  Take the time to make sure that the spaces you live and work in are as comfortable as possible and fit your size and shape.

* These tips are provided for informational purposes only. The tips are intended to offer only a general basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their healthcare professional. Always consult your healthcare professional before undertaking a new healthcare regimen.

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