Arthritis Pain Management: A Comprehensive Guide (Part One)

Arthritis is a common and painful condition that affects millions of people around the world. Since there is no cure for arthritis, pain management is an important factor for those living with it.

Arthritis causes inflammation and stiffness in the joints, which can lead to pain and reduced mobility. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is most common in the

  • hands
  • knees
  • hips
  • and spine

Arthritis also comes in many forms, including

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • gout
  • lupus
  • fibromyalgia

There are many ways to manage arthritic pain and improve your quality of life. In this article—in honor of Arthritis Awareness Month—we will explore some of the most effective methods for arthritis pain management, including medication and exercise. Next week, we’ll examine other methods, such as diet, supplements, and alternative therapies.

Facts and Figures

From 2013–2015, an estimated 58.5 million US adults annually had been told by a doctor that they had some form of arthritis

By 2040, an estimated 78 million (26%) US adults aged 18 years or older are projected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis

Almost 23% of overweight and 31% of obese US adults report doctor-diagnosed arthritis

This is compared to approximately 16% of adults that fall into the underweight or normal weight range

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Pain Management: Medication

One of the first steps in managing arthritis pain is to consult your doctor about the best medication for your condition. There are different types of drugs that can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and slow down the progression of arthritis. Some of the most common ones are:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—also known as NSAIDs—include

  • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • naproxen (Aleve)
  • aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin)
  • celecoxib (CeleBREX, Elyxyb)

NSAIDs work by blocking the production of chemicals called prostaglandins that cause inflammation and pain. NSAIDs can be taken orally or applied topically as creams or gels.

Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is a pain reliever that does not have anti-inflammatory effects. It works by blocking pain signals in the brain. Acetaminophen can be taken alone or in combination with other drugs. Types of acetaminophen range from over-the-counter to controlled prescription:

  • Tylenol
  • Panadol
  • Vicodin
  • Percocet
  • Lortab

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are hormones that mimic the effects of cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory substance produced by the body. They can be taken orally or injected into the affected joints. Corticosteroids can provide fast and powerful relief, but they also have side effects such as weight gain, osteoporosis, and increased risk of infection.

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs

Also known as DMARDs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs are drugs that target the underlying causes of arthritis by suppressing the immune system and preventing it from attacking the joints. They can slow down or stop the progression of arthritis and prevent joint damage. DMARDs include

  • methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
  • sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
  • hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
  • leflunomide (Arava)

Biologic agents

These are a newer class of drugs that also target the immune system, but in a more specific way than DMARDs. They block certain proteins or cells that are involved in inflammation and joint damage. Biologic agents include

  • etanercept (Enbrel)
  • infliximab (Remicade)
  • adalimumabl (Humira)
  • abatacept (Orencia)

Medication can be very effective in managing arthritis pain, but it also comes with risks and side effects. You should always follow your doctor’s instructions on how to use them safely and monitor your condition regularly.

Pain Management: Exercise

Another important aspect of arthritis pain management is exercise. The praises of exercise have been sung so often you probably know them by heart. Exercise can help

  • strengthen your muscles and bones
  • improve your flexibility and range of motion
  • reduce stiffness and swelling
  • enhance your mood and energy levels
  • and lower your risk of other health problems

The best types of exercise for people with arthritis are low-impact activities that do not put too much stress on the joints. Some examples are:

Walking

This is a simple and accessible way to get some aerobic exercise that can improve your cardiovascular health and burn calories. You can start with short distances and gradually increase your speed and duration as you feel comfortable.

We’ve written extensively on the benefits of walking. Two of the greatest hits:

Swimming

This is a great option for people with arthritis because water supports your body weight and reduces the impact on your joints. Swimming can also help tone your muscles and improve your endurance and flexibility.

Cycling

This is another low-impact activity that can boost your heart health and strengthen your legs. You can use a stationary bike or a regular bike with gears that allow you to adjust the resistance according to your ability.

Yoga

This is a form of exercise that combines physical poses with breathing techniques and meditation. Yoga can help improve your balance, posture, flexibility, and relaxation. It can also reduce stress and inflammation in your body.

Tai chi

This is a type of martial art that involves slow and gentle movements coordinated with breathing. Tai chi can help improve your coordination, stability, mobility, and mental focus. It can also lower your blood pressure and stress levels.

Exercise can be very beneficial for people with arthritis, but it also requires some caution and moderation. You should always warm up before exercising and cool down after to prevent injuries. You should also listen to your body and stop when you need to.

To be continued…

Next up we’ll be taking a look at alternative arthritis pain management techniques and solutions. Stay tuned!

644 Comments
  • Charlotte Shepherd
    Posted at 19:05h, 15 May

    This was helpful info so I undestand it much better now .

  • Juanita
    Posted at 15:12h, 15 May

    This describes me!

  • Sara Warrick
    Posted at 14:44h, 14 May

    Good info!

  • ellen t keramis
    Posted at 11:08h, 13 May

    Good to know

  • Estella Robertson
    Posted at 12:47h, 12 May

    Very interesting reading.. Thanks for the information.

  • Joseph Schneier
    Posted at 05:41h, 12 May

    Thanks good read

  • Ronald lewis arkansas
    Posted at 22:56h, 11 May

    Dealing with Arthur myself

  • Latroyne Verenell Bennifield
    Posted at 16:04h, 11 May

    Great

  • Bonita Marsh
    Posted at 10:37h, 11 May

    Thanks for the information

  • Deborah Beaty
    Posted at 18:30h, 10 May

    Thanks

  • Tracy Murray
    Posted at 18:20h, 10 May

    I like this because I do have arthritis in my left knee and I’m going to start yoga and I’m excited to do that. I’m really in pain and I’m also taking the gel shot’s and it’s really working but because I have to wait 6 months to redo it. so yoga will help me through.

  • JOYCE CHARITY
    Posted at 06:29h, 10 May

    Looking forward for more. Thank you.

  • Lisa Chevalier
    Posted at 23:04h, 09 May

    This was helpful.

  • Ella Rollins
    Posted at 15:40h, 09 May

    Thanks

  • Gary Zaye
    Posted at 14:26h, 09 May

    Thanks

  • Angela Washington
    Posted at 13:17h, 09 May

    Looking forward to pain management strategies.
    Interesting.

  • Sara F
    Posted at 12:33h, 09 May

    Thank you

  • Jennifer Price
    Posted at 12:09h, 09 May

    Good article, thank you.

  • Kanelle McMath
    Posted at 11:50h, 09 May

    Thanks

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