Top Treatments to Ease Joint Pain
Thu Nov 14 17:20:38 UTC 2013
Many different conditions can lead to joint pain, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, and gout. Injuries like sprains or strains can only make matters worse. Whether your joint pain is mild or severe, these common treatments can help decrease joint pain and improve your quality of life.
Some of the easiest forms of joint pain treatment can be done in the comfort of your own home. If you’re experiencing inflammation, applying ice to the affected joint can reduce pain. Conversely, you can treat muscle spasms around joints with heating pads. Elevating the affected joint above the level of your heart can prevent swelling, and rest will reduce the chances of overworking the area.
Excess weight can put too much pressure on joints, so exercise may alleviate some pain by helping you lose weight. Exercise also builds muscle strength around the joints and can improve flexibility. Make sure that the exercise you get is low-impact, so you won’t put too much strain on affected joints. Start slow and gradually increase your workout session. Swimming and biking are two great types of exercise that allow you to lose weight without overworking painful areas.
Physical therapy can be one of the most beneficial treatments for joint pain. A physical therapist can help you improve the range of motion in the joint and reduce the chances of future injury, while exercise will strengthen the muscles around painful joints. Some therapists may use additional techniques, including ultrasound, heat or cold therapy, and nerve stimulation.
If you thought chili peppers were just meant to spice up a meal, consider that capsaicin—the active substance in a chili pepper that causes a burning sensation—is also used as a topical agent for joint pain relief. Researchers have proven that topical capsaicin delivers highly effective pain relief. When rubbed into the skin, capsaicin cream triggers the release of endorphins, blocking the pain signals that are causing you discomfort. Over-the-counter topical agents that contain menthol or methyl salicylate, including Bengay, Icy Hot, and Flexall, may also relieve joint pain.
Depending on how severe your joint pain is, your doctor may suggest or prescribe medication. For mild pain, your doctor may suggest an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) are common over-the-counter medications for pain relief. Your doctor might also prescribe a COX-2 inhibitor for mild-to-severe pain, including celecoxib (Celebrex). If you experience severe joint pain, however, your doctor may prescribe opioid drugs, which you should take only under the supervision of a doctor.
If it’s your knee that’s causing you pain, consider using a brace. Braces can improve the alignment of the knee and relieve pain. Some braces are available over-the-counter, but you may want to have your doctor recommend a specific brace and get fitted by a physical therapist.
There is a wide variety of alternative treatments for joint pain. Some alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and yoga, may help some people with joint pain. And although some people with joint pain may take supplements that include natural components of cartilage, including glucosamine and chondroitin, recent research casts doubt on their effectiveness. Some of these products can interact with prescription medications. Always check with your doctor before you start taking these types of supplements.
If home care, medication, or other minimally invasive treatments don’t help with joint pain, your doctor may suggest steroid injections. Cortisone injections may help with inflammation around joints, and they’re usually administered with a local anesthetic. Steroid injections may have potential side effects, however, so talk with your doctor about all of your treatment options.
If your joint pain is serious enough that your doctor needs to look inside the joint to diagnose or treat a problem, he or she may perform arthroscopy. During this minimally invasive surgical procedure, a surgeon will insert a small tube equipped with a fiber-optic camera under your skin, allowing a magnified view of the affected area. He or she can then assess any damage or perform surgery, if necessary, to repair damaged joint tissue.
If your quality of life is severely impaired due to joint pain, and most treatments have proven ineffective, your doctor will most likely suggest joint replacement surgery. After reviewing X-rays or performing arthroscopy, an orthopedic surgeon will replace the damaged joint with an artificial joint made out of plastic, metal, or a combination of both materials. These artificial joints can last a decade or longer.
Finding the right joint pain relief can be an ongoing process. When pain is minimal, self-care may work effectively. If pain is persistent and getting worse, you may need to step up your treatment. Listen to your body, and find a doctor who can help you manage your joint pain effectively. It may help you to keep a list, or even a journal, of what has and hasn’t worked for you. This will help you and your doctor come up with a more effective treatment plan.
Medically Reviewed By: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: October 17, 2013
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