Management of arthritis pain depends not only upon the specific condition, but also upon your age, lifestyle, and unique response to different treatment methods.
Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
* Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition involving deterioration of the cartilage in the joints, resulting in joint pain or stiffness.
* Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease affecting the lining of the joints. While osteoarthritis is far more common, rheumatoid arthritis is often a much more severe form of the disease.
Before assessing your arthritis pain relief options, it is important to consult with a physician to determine whether you have arthritis, and if so, which type since treatment options differ.
Common Causes of Arthritis Pain
* Inflammation of the tendons, ligaments or lining of the joints. This inflammation may be accompanied by swelling or redness, which results in joint pain.
* Joint tissue damage, which may be related to an injury or excess pressure on the joints.
* Fatigue, which is sometimes a result of arthritis and can make the joint pain seem more intense and the condition more difficult to cope with.
Arthritis Pain Treatment Options
There are a variety of ways to treat arthritis pain and other joint pain. It's essential to be aware that people respond differently to different treatments. An individual's response to pain and pain relief treatments is affected by the particular disease or condition he/she suffers from, the severity of the pain, and a range of psychological and emotional factors.
Short Term Pain Relief
For short term relief from arthritis pain, many people use hot or cold therapy, depending on the type of pain and the specific condition. Cold therapy in the form of an ice pack can sometimes provide pain relief by reducing swelling, but may not be a good option for patients with poor circulation. Heat therapy, either moist or dry, acts as a muscle relaxant, and can also provide short term pain relief.
Certain drugs can also give quick, short term relief from the joint pain associated with arthritis. Depending on the amount of inflammation, doctors will often recommend a pain relief medication such as acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin or ibuprofen.
Another non-drug alternative that provides some patients with short term relief from arthritis pain is TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS unit delivers electrical pulses to nerves in the affected area. The pulses block pain messages that the nerves would normally deliver to the brain, thereby bringing pain relief to the patient.
TENS therapy may also raise the level of endorphins produced by the brain. Endorphins are substances that are produced naturally in the body and contribute to feelings of well-being and pain relief.
Long Term Pain Relief
Drugs such as NSAIDs provide some level of pain relief. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) target the immune system and are helpful for some patients. Corticosteroids are hormones that are sometimes prescribed for treatment of the joint pain and inflammation that typically accompany arthritis.
For many people with arthritis pain, exercise and physical therapy can help reduce stiffness and joint pain. Depending on the severity of the condition, walking, swimming, and a variety of strengthening and/or aerobic activities may be helpful, not only in pain relief but also from the standpoint of improving patients' self-confidence and psychological and emotional well-being.
In a small minority of cases, medication and lifestyle changes do not provide the desired pain relief and doctors may recommend surgery. Surgical procedures can remove tissue within the joint, or else realign or replace the joint.
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