Dealing with joint pain can be a frustrating and lonely experience which is difficult to explain to those around you.
These tips will help you to deal with the debilitating symptoms of joint pain in a positive way, in order to minimise its impact on your everyday life:
Painkillers – Whether it’s caused by arthritis, overuse or strain, joint pain can often be eased with simple painkilling drugs such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs available over the counter.
Hot and cold therapy – Heat pads can help to relax muscles and act as an effective pain reliever for stiff joints, while applying ice to the area works to reduce any pain and swelling caused by inflammation.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatment – TENS is a technique which uses electrical impulses to disrupt the pain signals traveling to the spinal cord and brain. This process reduces sensitivity of the nerve endings to relax muscles and relieve pain, through the production of endorphins. Effectiveness very much depends on the individual and the nature of their condition.
Topical creams/gels – If you’d prefer to avoid tablets, an anti-inflammatory NSAID gel can be rubbed on the skin over a sore joint. This works particularly well for those suffering from osteoarthritis and can relieve pain in joints such as the hands, knees, and elbows. However, topical treatments are less effective for deep joints such as the hip, as very little is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Splints – Splints can be useful for supporting painful joints in the short term. However, long-term use may cause the muscles around the affected area to weaken considerably. If certain tasks or activities continue to cause pain, it may be worth seeing an occupational therapist. They can advise on how to adapt your daily movements to reduce discomfort.
Exercise – Though you may not feel like exercising, taking part in daily, low-impact exercise such as cycling and water aerobics can release pain relieving endorphins. Finding the right balance between rest and activity can help to improve stiffness, muscle strength and fatigue levels.
Pace yourself – Know your limits and listen to your body. Pushing yourself to complete a task can lead to increased pain and inflammation. Learn to work around your joint pain, not against it.
Communicate – Remember the importance of a positive attitude. Talking about your symptoms with friends and family will help to decrease feelings of anxiety or depression, which may develop as a result of persistent joint pain.
Unfortunately, pain can sometimes be a long-term problem and specific treatments may not offer complete relief. If pain persists, it’s worth consulting your doctor who may be able to offer stronger painkillers, or may suggest tests or scans to check whether there’s a problem that needs more specific treatment.
Proudly supporting Arthritis Research UK.
For more info on the main types of painkillers and other pain relief techniques
For general advice on exercising with arthritis/joint pain
For exercises for specific parts of the body
For more on how physiotherapy can help
For more on splints
For more on pain management clinic/programmes