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Arthritis pain: Do's and don'ts

Arthritis pain: Do's and don'ts - Kneevo™
Will physical activity reduce or increase your arthritis pain? Get tips on exercise and other common concerns when coping with arthritis symptoms and arthritis pain.

Arthritis is a leading cause of pain and disability worldwide. You can find plenty of advice about easing the pain of arthritis and other conditions with exercise, medication and stress reduction. How do you know what will work for you?

Here are some do's and don'ts to help you figure it out.

1. Daily Habbits and Lifestyle

Quality of life is easier to maintain when you understand your diagnosis. Take the time to really talk to your doctor and be sure to ask any questions you may have. Join a group, read arthritis support blogs, and subscribe to magazines. Understanding your disease will enable you to manage it more effectively, help you feel in control, and remind you that you are not alone.

What to do

  • Pay attention to your joints, whether sitting, standing or engaging in activity. Tell your doctor if your pain changes

  • Keep your joints moving. Do daily, gentle stretches that move your joints through their full range of motion.

  • Use good posture. A physical therapist can show you how to sit, stand and move correctly.

  • Know your limits. Balance activity and rest, and don't overdo it.

What to avoid:

  • Overweight. Being overweight can increase complications of arthritis and contribute to arthritis pain. Making incremental, permanent lifestyle changes resulting in gradual weight loss is often the most effective method of weight management.

  • Smoking. Smoking is harmful to your joints, bones, and connective tissues . Besides that, research shows it's linked to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, especially for people who have smoked for 20-plus years. Show your joints some love and quit smoking. They’ll thank you in the long run.

2. Exercise

When you have arthritis, movement can decrease your pain and stiffness, improve your range of motion, strengthen your muscles, and increase your endurance.

What to do

Choose the right kinds of activities — those that build the muscles around your joints but don't damage the joints themselves.

Focus on stretching, range-of-motion exercises and gradual progressive strength training. Include low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling or water exercises, to improve your mood and help control your weight.

If you’re looking for exercises specific to decrease pain, we’ve written about that, too. 10 Best Exercises to Manage Pain.

What to avoid

Don’t do exercises that are high-impact and/or involve repetitive motion, such as:

  • Running

  • Jumping

  • Crosstraining

  • Hopping

  • High-impact aerobics

  • Repeating the same movement, such as a tennis serve, again and again

3. Medications

Many types of medications are available for arthritis pain relief. Most are relatively safe, but no medication is completely free of side effects. Talk with your doctor to formulate a medication plan for your specific pain symptoms.

What to do

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help relieve occasional pain triggered by activity your muscles and joints aren't used to — such as gardening after a winter indoors.

Cream containing capsaicin may be applied to skin over a painful joint to relieve pain. Use alone or with oral medication.

Consult your doctor if over-the-counter medications don't relieve your pain.

What to avoid

  • Overtreatment. Talk with your doctor if you find yourself using over-the-counter pain relievers regularly.

  • Undertreatment. Don't try to ignore severe and prolonged arthritis pain. You might have joint inflammation or damage requiring daily medication.

  • Focusing only on pain. Depression is more common in people with arthritis. Doctors have found that treating depression with antidepressants and other therapies reduces not only depression symptoms but also arthritis pain.

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