What Is The Best Pain Relief For Arthritis (+Symptoms & Causes)
In our ultimate guide to arthritis, we look at what arthritis is, its symptoms, its causes, and what is the best pain relief for arthritis.
With millions of people who have arthritis and other similar conditions that affect joints in the U.K. Despite it being more common among the elderly, arthritis can affect children. It is a degenerative disease that often deteriorates the quality of life, making simple day-to-day activities like climbing the stairs a challenge.
In this article, you will learn the different types of arthritis and the different ways to help manage pain.
I. What Is Arthritis: Symptoms & Causes?
01. What is Arthritis?
Arthritis encompasses joint swelling, pain, and joint stiffness in the joint(s). It is not a single condition but refers to hundreds of joint diseases.
02. What are the Different Types of Arthritis?
Arthritis refers to several joint conditions that are primarily degenerative or autoimmune. This means that symptoms often worsen over time or are extra-articular, respectively.
Here are the most common types of arthritis:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) - (also known as “wear and tear” arthritis) is a degenerative joint condition that develops when joint cartilage wears out from repeated stress.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – is an inflammatory disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy synovial membranes in your joints, causing painful swellings.
- Gout – is another type of inflammatory arthritis that causes crystallized uric acid deposits to form in the joints.
- Ankylosing spondylitis – is also known as arthritis of the spine, causes spine bones to fuse and usually affects the lower back.
- Psoriatic arthritis - is an autoimmune disorder that results in joint inflammation in people with psoriasis.
- Juvenile arthritis (JA) - is autoimmune arthritis that affects children and teenagers.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common types of arthritis and are long-term conditions.
With more than 100 different types of arthritis, symptoms tend to vary from one type to the other.
03. What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
Although arthritis symptoms often vary from person to person and tend to be type-specific, some common symptoms you may experience include pain and stiffness in the joint(s), inflammations around the joint areas, and limited joint movement.
It is normal to experience pains and aches, especially after strenuous activity. But if the symptoms worsen or do not go away after a few days and impact your daily life, you should seek medical advice for an accurate diagnosis.
04. What Causes Arthritis?
Many different things cause different types of arthritis. For example, gout arthritis results from the buildup of uric acid in the joint areas.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of most other types of arthritis is still unknown.
While it might be challenging to determine what caused your arthritis, several factors increase the risk of getting certain types of arthritis. Who knows? It could be in the genes trickling down your family tree!
Here are some of the main risk factors for arthritis:
- Age. Many types of arthritis, like osteoarthritis, tend to increase with age.
- Family history. Some types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, run in families, meaning you are more likely to develop it if your close relatives have the disorder.
- Previous joint injury. People with a history of joint damage, perhaps from playing a sport, tend to develop arthritis in that joint.
- Gender. Certain types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, tend to affect women more than men, while gout arthritis affects men more than women.
- Obesity. Having excess weight puts stress on joints, particularly the knees and spine. This explains why obese individuals have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
While there is no cure for arthritis, there are tremendous improvements in treatments for many types of arthritis, like inflammatory arthritis. As already established, there is a clear benefit in starting treatment in the earliest stage possible.
With the right approach and treatment, you should be able to manage and achieve ultimate joint pain relief for arthritis.
Here are some of the most effective ways to find relief from arthritis pain:
II. 9 Most Effective Ways To Relieve from Arthritis Pain
01. Manage Your Weight
Weight is a critical yet neglected risk factor for arthritis. The 2019 American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation study findings recommend overweight and obese individuals with OA lose weight.
So, if you happen to experience occasional joint pains when you walk or are just worried about arthritis because a close family member has it, checking your weight should be your first step toward prevention.
There are two ways that excess weight increases your risk of developing OA. First, additional weight stresses your weight-bearing joints, like the knees. Second, weight gain is closely associated with high inflammatory factors that might contribute to more trouble in other joints (mostly in your hands).
According to Arthritis Health, every pound of your weight exerts at least 3 pounds of force on your knees for every step you take and 6 pounds of added stress on your hip joints. This increased pressure on weight-bearing joints causes joint cartilage to wear out more quickly, worsening OA.
On a brighter note, research shows that losing at least one pound of gained weight results in a 4-fold reduction of workload exerted on your knees per step. In other words, losing weight helps to ease pressure on joints, relieve pain, and improve physical function for individuals with arthritis.
Your doctor can help you set a healthy weight target and design a program to help you achieve it. Otherwise, engaging in low-impact arthritis-friendly exercises like walking and healthy dietary changes can help you manage weight and achieve joint pain relief effectively.
02. Be Physically Active
With about 10 million people having arthritis in the U.K., healthcare providers often encourage arthritis patients to engage in physical activity and exercise as an option for pain relief for arthritis.
Research suggests that engaging in everyday physical activities like walking helps to ease joint pain, reduce fall risk, and improve physical function among adults living with arthritis. According to CDC, being physically active can help improve your condition and quality of life by 40%.
You might find low-impact exercises like swimming, brisk walking, cycling, yoga, and Tai Chi enjoyable. It would be best if you found something you enjoy to keep on doing it.
Beware that you might feel discomfort and even pain during the exercise, but this should calm down a moment after you finish. It is pretty standard and should not be taken as a sign of hurting oneself.
While the urge to push yourself and take things up a notch higher, it is essential that you do not overdo your workout. If the pain worsens and does not go away a few minutes after the exercise, it would be best to seek medical attention immediately.
Otherwise, maintaining a regular physical activity routine can help you manage your weight more efficiently. This way, you reduce pressure off your joints and minimize your chances of getting inflammations.
Some quick, easy exercises you can try at home include leg flutter kicks, shoulder stretches, and arm/leg raises. If you are not into exercise, there are several joint-friendly activities that you can do to stay active.
These include everyday things like taking the stairs, tending your garden, and using a basket for light shopping. Doing these regularly will additionally help improve sleep, promote bone health, and manage other chronic diseases like diabetes.
03. Try a Combination of Hot and Cold Therapy
Sometimes conventional home remedies are just what the doctor prescribed. For instance, using cold and heat therapy can help provide pain relief for arthritis.
When your knees or shoulders are sore or stiff, cooling down or warming up the affected joints might be what you need to manage symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.
They are two different treatments but can be used conjunctively to help reduce arthritis pain effectively. Heat therapy boosts blood circulation, relieves stiffness, and increases flexibility. In contrast, cold therapy restricts blood flow, numbs pain, and reduces inflammation.
Quick examples of heat treatments include taking a warm bath and placing a hot water bottle on the affected joints, while those for cold therapy include icing aching joints or applying a cold pack on affected joints.
Even though the effect of both heat and cold therapy is temporary, they may help keep the symptoms at bay and reduce the severity of the pain for a long time.
So, go for options that yield the best results and incorporate them into your self-care routine. Ensure you protect your skin because both treatments can easily cause skin damage.
As a rule of thumb, limiting both treatments to 15 or 20 minutes at a time and a minimum of 2-hour break between applications to prevent skin injury is advisable. Otherwise, it would be best to talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
04. Try Mindfulness Meditation
Stress plays a very significant role in arthritis. When stressed, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, and muscles tenses in preparation to face a challenge at hand.
If this reaction continues repeatedly, the constant increase of tension in your muscles can amplify arthritis pain. Nevertheless, stress further triggers the body’s inflammatory response, causing more joint damage in the different forms of inflammatory arthritis.
Research considers stress as a key triggering factor for exacerbation. This means that you are more likely to experience arthritis flare-ups when you are stressed.
Although it might be hard to prevent stress, you can do several things to help manage it. Practicing mindfulness meditation is one of them.
Meditation refers to focusing your mind and thinking deeply about what is happening in your body. Therefore, mindfulness meditation can be defined as a relaxation technique that relieves stress by focusing awareness on thoughts, breathing, and body sensations.
To practice it, you will need to focus your attention on your feelings and what your body is experiencing at the moment. Of course, you may need to practice a bit, but a few minutes of mindfulness meditation should help relieve stress and pain—both of which could have flared up your arthritis.
Findings of a specialized study conducted in 2014 strongly suggest that mindfulness meditation can help provide joint pain relief, reduce early morning stiffness, and minimize the number of tender swollen joints for people living with RA.
05. Eat Healthily
What we eat sometimes influences our body’s immune system. For instance, your diet can be directly connected with inflammatory flares in your joints.
Also, a slight change in your diet can help reduce stress and control weight—two of the most significant risk factors for arthritis. In other words, eating healthy can help you prevent inflammatory flares as a result of stress and also reduce pressure on your weight-bearing joints.
A diet that is plant-based and rich in whole foods can help improve your immune system and overall health. Clinical research findings reveal evidence that following such a diet also helps with pain relief for arthritis.
What happens is that plant-based diets provide the body with antioxidants that help to eliminate free radicals that cause inflammations—thereby relieving joint pain and reducing stiffness.
Research further shows significant evidence that choosing a healthy diet over taking processed foods can help you manage osteoarthritis. Some quick examples of antioxidant-rich, plant-based foods for you to include in your diet include green tea, nuts, leafy greens, whole grains, and fresh fruits.
Besides being addictive, eating processed foods and following a high-fat, energy-dense diet with added salt, sugar, and red meat may aggravate inflammations, causing arthritis to flare. Also, such a diet is known to cause other health issues like obesity—another critical risk factor for arthritis.
The ball is in your court now, and we hope you make the right choices.
06. Take Omega 3 and Vitamin D supplements
In addition to eating healthy, taking dietary supplements rich in omega-3 fats and vitamin D can also help with joint pain relief for arthritis. Scientific evidence shows omega-3 and vitamin D supplements can help moderate arthritis symptoms.
Research findings from a study conducted in 2017 suggest that omega-3 supplements can help reduce inflammatory processes in the body and also help regulate the immune system. Another study investigating the role of omega-3 nutrients on inflammatory and degenerative diseases concludes that omega-3 supplementation can help improve symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis.
But there is still a need for further studies to confirm this assumption. Some quick sources of omega-3 to add to your diet include seeds, nuts, and sardines.
Conversely, vitamin D is widely popular for strengthening bones—a role scientists believe can help relieve joint pain, especially for those with rheumatoid arthritis. According to one study published in 2016, RA patients tend to have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, meaning they may benefit significantly from vitamin D supplementation.
Although the current guidelines for managing arthritis do not recommend taking vitamin D supplements, you can still get a fair dose of it by basking in the sun or eating certain foods like cod liver oils or beef liver.
Discuss this with your doctor before adding any new supplement to your diet. This is the only way to ensure that the new addition will not interfere with your health or worsen your condition.
07. Add Turmeric to Your Diet
Although we all use turmeric as a spice for our curries and teas at home, many are unaware of its numerous purported health benefits. Yes, I am referring to that golden-yellow spice in your pantry.
The plant is a close cousin to ginger and mainly originates from Asia. Historically, turmeric has been used for healing purposes by traditional Indian doctors over the years.
Today, research suggests that its main active chemical component, curcumin, can help you relieve joint pain from arthritis. In simpler terms, the same substance that gives turmeric its yellow color can help ease arthritis pain and reduce inflammation, especially if you have rheumatoid arthritis.
Since RA results from the body’s immune system attacking itself, curcumin is shown to contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory elements that can help ease your journey toward remission.
Research further reveals that curcumin blocks different properties that cause inflammations, meaning there is a higher chance of turmeric being a complementary treatment for arthritis.
According to an experimental study conducted in 2012 investigating the efficacy of curcumin in patients with active RA, curcumin effectively helped improve RA symptoms. Although safe in high doses, Arthritis Foundation recommends taking 500 milligrams twice daily for those planning to get curcumin supplements.
Always check with your healthcare provider before taking any new supplement for joint pain relief for arthritis.
08. Explore Other Medical Options
Thanks to further advancements in research and technology, there are numerous emerging strategies to help improve symptoms of arthritis. To be clear, most of these approaches are not featured in the current guidelines for managing arthritis.
Therefore, do not pursue them as a replacement for your arthritis medication or standard care.
Some of the most popular treatments you can discuss with your doctor include hyaluronic acid joint injections, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and herbal medicine.
Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that your body secretes to help lubricate your joints and keep surrounding cells hydrated. That said, getting a hyaluronic acid joint injection adds more lube in the joint affected with a degenerative disease such as osteoarthritis.
OA tends to break down and thin hyaluronic acid in the body, so getting a hyaluronic acid joint injection might help improve your condition. According to Arthritis Foundation, this treatment only tends to be more effective for those with mild to moderate OA.
Research findings suggest that a HA joint injection can relieve OA symptoms that can last between 6 to 12 months. But you will need to keep on going for the injections to maintain the effects.
TENS is an alternative joint pain relief method that uses electric current to relieve arthritis. A TENS device is a simple, inexpensive, portable, safe, and easy-to-use gadget that you can easily procure online or over the counter and use as part of your self-management strategy for arthritis.
While you may have to experiment before finding the right settings for you, it would be best to consult your doctor before getting one.
09. Get a Massage Tool
Massage is one of the most popular treatments among people seeking to ease anxiety, soothe joint pain, and improve sleep quality. According to Arthritis Foundation, regular massages can help provide pain relief for arthritis.
Research shows that massage therapies often lower the production of cortisol, a stress-causing hormone, and increase serotonin and dopamine levels (a neurotransmitter and feel-good hormone), which can help relieve pain.
A 2013 study investigating the effects of massage therapy on people with rheumatoid arthritis in the upper limbs suggests that regular moderate massages can help provide joint pain relief, increase grip strength, and improve range of motion.
Similar results were also observed in a study conducted in 2015 aiming to investigate the effects of moderate-pressure massage therapy for people with knee arthritis.
A 2016 study investigating the efficacy of massage therapy in treating pain suggests that massage therapy for arthritis helps to reduce pain, promote blood flow in joints, increase range of motion, and improve quality of life.
But Arthritis Foundation only recommends moderate pressure massages that stimulate receptors under your skin to reduce stress and pain signals to your brain. Given how busy life can get, keeping up with therapy appointments at your local wellness center can be exhaustive and expensive.
Lucky for you, there are numerous at-home massaging tools that you can buy and still get the same effect. From neck pain to foot pain relief, you cannot miss finding a massage tool that suits your specific needs. Feel free to visit OrthoPro to see more massager products designed to provide pain relief for arthritis.
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