Your doctor may recommend that you manage your arthritis pain by maintaining a healthy weight. A balanced diet helps manage weight and helps you stay healthy. Additional pressure (weight) on weight bearing joints, such as hips and knees, may aggravate your arthritis. By managing your weight, stress is reduced on weight-bearing joints.
A variety of exercises may also be recommended to help you maintain flexibility and manage weight. According to the Arthritis Foundation, research has shown that exercise is an essential tool in managing your arthritis. Exercises can reduce joint pain and stiffness, build strong muscle around the joints and increase flexibility. Exercise is an important part of arthritis treatment that is most effective when done properly and routinely.
Your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation may be able to suggest an exercise program for you.
The most important way to improve your condition is rest and rehabilitation.At home, general care involves "RICE":
Short-term bed rest helps reduce both joint inflammation and pain, and is especially useful when multiple joints are affected and fatigue is a major problem. Individual joint rest is most helpful when arthritis involves one or only a few joints.
Heat Therapy - increases blood flow, tolerance for pain, flexibility.
Cold Therapy - such as cold packs, ice massage, OTC sprays and ointments - reduces pain by numbing the nerves around the joint.
Your doctor may recommend visiting a physical therapist. Physical therapy can be helpful in the management of Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). For example, a physical therapist may recommend:
The goal is to get you back to the point where you can perform normal, everyday activities without difficulty. Preserving good range of motion is key to maintaining the ability to perform daily activities. Physical therapists provide exercises designed to preserve the strength and use of your joints. They will show you the best way to move from one position to another and teach you how to use walking aids.
Walking aids, such as a cane, walker or brace may be recommended by your doctor.
Analgesics, pain relievers, may provide temporary relief of arthritis pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are traditional pain relievers.
Topical pain relievers are another option. Over-the-counter patches, rubs and ointments can provide quick pain relief for people with arthritis that is present in only a few joints — such as a hand — or whose pain isn't severe.
Cortisone injections may provide temporary relief. These injections offer quick, effective pain relief, however, they can be used only a few times a year because they weaken bone and cartilage. Also, cortisone injections can cause other potentially serious side effects, so their use must be monitored by a physician.
For patients whose joint pain does not improve with medication or physical therapy, "joint grease" injections may provide temporary relief. The joint is injected with a joint fluid supplement that acts as a lubricant for the damaged joint. Joint injection schedules and duration of relief vary according to the treatment chosen and the individual patient. However, these injections do not cure the diseased joint and joint replacement may be needed as the joint worsens with time. One common supplement is Hyaluronic Acid injection, which can be effective between 5-13 weeks.
1. Arthritis Foundation website, http://www.arthritis.org/faqs-taking-control-of-oa.php, accessed Oct. 2008.
2. "The Age of Arthritis," Time Magazine, December 9, 2002.
3. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center website, http://www.hopkins-arthritis.org/arthritis-info/osteoarthritis/weight-management.html, accessed Oct. 2008.
4. Muscoskeletal Report, http://www.mskreport.com/articles.cfm?articleID=13, accessed Oct. 2008.