Memorial Health - September 10, 2018

Pain in the joints may be caused by a variety of injuries and conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), bursitis, osteoarthritis and tendinitis.

But luckily, for the more than 15 million Americans who experience some type of severe joint pain, there are ways to get relief. Talk with your doctor about which of the following methods might work best for you as part of your overall treatment plan.

At-home management

For pain associated with conditions other than arthritis, it may be possible to find reprieve through routine management techniques at home. Massages, warm baths and stretching can loosen joints and relieve discomfort.

Pain relievers

You might also try over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen. In some cases, your doctor may recommend stronger prescription doses. If you have stomach ulcers or kidney, liver or heart disease, check with your doctor to make sure these medications are safe for you.

Exercise

When you have joint pain, the last thing you may want to do is exercise. But as long as you’re cleared by your doctor, it’s actually important to keep moving and it may be a valuable part of your treatment.

Low-impact workouts like swimming and walking are ideal for those with joint pain. Meanwhile, if you’re accustomed to high-intensity workouts like running, boot camp classes or heavy weight lifting, you may need to scale back and opt for something less strenuous.

Weight loss

Not surprisingly, carrying around extra weight puts pressure on load- bearing joints like knees and hips that may already be causing you pain.

Maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if you’re overweight, can improve the health of your joints in a major way. According to Harvard Medical School, obese people who lose 10 to 15 pounds can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis down the road. And one 2005 study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that losing just one pound of weight relieved four pounds of pressure from the knees.

Talk with your doctor about a weight that’s healthy for you.

Topical treatment

Oral NSAIDs may be effective for treating joint pain, but there are also topical options in the form of gels, liquids or patches.

While they’re not for everyone (they can cause problems for those with sensitive skin), topical pain relievers may be a better option than oral NSAIDs if:

  • You have arthritis-related pain in one or a couple of smaller joints like hands, elbows and ankles
  • You’re over the age of 65
  • Your stomach is sensitive to oral NSAIDs
  • You have heart-related risk factors and your doctor doesn’t want you to take oral NSAIDs

Other treatments available for joint pain include supportive aids like braces to help you move around more easily, physical therapy, joint injections, prescription painkillers and, for severe cases, joint-replacement surgeries.