If you are experiencing chronic joint pain, your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments. These might include over-the-counter painkillers or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
They may also prescribe a brace, splint or a device that will help ease pain by shifting weight from a painful joint, relieving pressure on the affected area or compressing swelling.
Joint pain can make exercise difficult, but it doesn’t have to stop you from staying active. Here are some exercises and machines that can help ease pain without putting too much pressure on your joints.
For example, cycling can build up your quadriceps muscles, which act as a kind of shock absorber for your knees. Plus, swimming is low impact and helps stimulate your muscles without overstimulating your joints.
Betz also recommends gentle movements that work through your spine’s range of motion, such as bridges. Adding Epsom salts to a warm bath can also help relieve back pain by reducing inflammation and loosening stiff muscles and joints.
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Acupuncture and a variety of other treatments may also help reduce pain, including hot or cold packs, heating pads and baths with warm water. Other techniques include deep-tissue massage, stretching and physical therapy.
Certain supplements, such as turmeric, may decrease inflammation and ease pain. It can be added to smoothies, soups or sauces. You can also take a supplement called glucosamine to increase the supply of cartilage in your joints.
3. Stop Smoking
Smoking contributes to inflammation in the body and can make arthritis pain worse. If you are a smoker, it is important to quit smoking as soon as possible. If you have difficulty quitting, ask your doctor for help.
Other lifestyle changes may also reduce joint pain, such as exercise that doesn’t put pressure on the joints, such as swimming or cycling, and losing weight. Dietary supplements, such as glucosamine (which is found in cartilage), and SAM-e (S-adenosyl methionine) may also help. Acetaminophen, available over-the-counter as Tylenol or at higher prescription doses, and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also ease pain.
4. Change Your Diet
You can ease pain and improve joint health through the foods you eat. Certain foods have been shown to help combat the inflammatory responses that cause pain in joints.
Try adding fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna to your diet a couple times a week to get Omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Also add cruciferous veggies such as brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. These veggies are loaded with antioxidants that fight inflammatory responses.
Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cookies and cakes, which increase inflammatory responses in the body. Drink green tea, which contains a natural ingredient called epigallocatechin-3-gallate that turns off the inflammatory response in the body.
5. Change Your Lifestyle
When you have a painful joint, even simple daily tasks like getting out of bed, walking down stairs or lifting groceries can feel Herculean. But if you make some lifestyle changes, you can reduce joint pain and improve your overall health.
Exercise helps relieve pain and stiffness and promotes weight loss, which can take pressure off of sore joints. Your physical therapist can recommend low-impact exercises that can help you strengthen muscles and improve flexibility.
A healthy diet that is high in whole foods, vegetables and fish and low in processed fats can also ease pain and inflammation. A few dietary supplements can help, too, including glucosamine, SAM-e and turmeric.
6. Talk to Your Doctor
If you experience chronic joint pain that interferes with your daily activities, make an appointment to see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize symptoms and slow the progression of arthritis.
Your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments to help relieve your pain. For example, heat and cold therapy can help reduce swelling and improve your range of motion. They can also suggest low-impact exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your joints and decrease pain and stiffness.
Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can reduce mild to moderate pain. Capsaicin cream applied directly to the skin can also relieve pain by depleting nerve cells of substance P, a chemical that transmits pain signals.
7. Work with a Physical Therapist
A physical therapist can use a variety of methods to help reduce joint pain and improve movement. They will examine your injury and health history before creating a one-of-a-kind treatment plan that fits your needs.
For example, they can recommend exercises that will strengthen the muscles around a painful joint and increase flexibility. They may also suggest swimming or other low-impact exercises that don’t irritate your joints. They can also teach you to be aware of your body position and posture, using good sitting and standing habits to protect your back and joints.
They can also offer techniques like heat or cold therapy, electrical nerve stimulation, and manual therapies.
8. Consider Alternative Treatments
There are a number of alternative treatments that can decrease pain and swelling. These include: heat and cold therapy (such as hot baths or showers, heating pads, warm clothing or swimming in a heated pool) and stretching exercises. Ice may also help numb nerves and reduce inflammation.
Exercise can improve strength and flexibility and help you lose weight, which takes pressure off of your joints. Some people find relief with acupuncture, which involves inserting thin needles into specific acupoints. Other options include hypnotherapy and meditation, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Certain diets can also ease arthritis. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help lubricate joints. Other foods that can reduce pain and inflammation are turmeric, ginger and boswellia oil.
9. See Your Physician
A physician can assess a patient’s joint pain and recommend alternative treatments. They may recommend a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory or, for those with chronic arthritis, traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs like methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine and minocycline.
For mild-to-moderate pain with swelling, an over-the-counter NSAID like ibuprofen or naproxen can help. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also be used, but should be avoided if you have liver, kidney or clotting problems or are taking blood thinners.
If you have severe or persistent joint pain, contact your physician right away. They will likely order X-rays or blood tests to check for joint damage and other issues that can cause the pain.