Arthritis affects more than one in every five Americans, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says those numbers are rising rapidly. The most common symptom, pain and swelling in afflicted body parts, can get in the way of everyday activities. Here are a few easy ways to alleviate arthritis pain.
Exercise.Though arthritis makes movement painful, exercise is the best way to prevent afflicted joints from getting stiff and limiting mobility in the long term. Low-impact exercises like dance classes or hiking involve a range of movements that will work stiff muscle groups with less chance of injury.
Ice and heat therapy.Icing achy joints helps reduce swelling and calms inflammation during arthritis flare-ups. Alternate 20 minutes of ice immediately after exercise and for about 24 hours after to prevent damage. Switch to hot compresses to speed up recovery time — heat increases blood flow to injured areas and helps the body heal injuries faster. Topical creams such as IcyHot and Bengay also have the same effect and can be applied as often as symptoms occur.
Nutrition and diet.Food is not often thought of as a drug, but avoiding certain foods can help alleviate arthritis pain. Because arthritis pain is due to inflammatory responses in the body and can be exacerbated by excess weight, it’s important to follow a well-rounded diet. A preliminary study done by researchers at the University of Oslo, Norway suggests food allergies exacerbate arthritis symptoms. Another study by the University of Maryland suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce these symptoms. Focus on eating foods such as fresh fish, omega-3 enriched eggs, nuts and olive oil. Read more about the preliminary research at ArthritisToday.org (http://www.arthritistoday.org/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/nutrition-and-ra/ra-food-allergies.php) and UMM.edu (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm).
Topical treatments. When preventive measures don’t give you the results you need, arthritis pain can also be mitigated using over-the-counter treatments. Special gels and topical treatments alleviate pain when applied to the inflamed area. Popular brands include Aspercreme, which contains pain-relieving ingredients, and Capzasin, which prevents your nerve cells from sending pain signals to your brain.
Oral medications. Oral medications can be used in tandem with topical treatments or by themselves to manage arthritis pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil and Tylenol can provide temporary relief from pain and are available without a prescription. For more severe arthritis pain, prescription anti-inflammatory drugs can be more powerful than over-the-counter medications. Talk to your doctor about the different oral medications available. Even if these oral medications lose their effect after a while, they should only be used as directed to prevent possible overdoses.
Alternative therapies. Eastern traditions of medicine might also alleviate arthritis symptoms. Acupuncture, acupressure and massage can all have varying positive effects on pain and have been helpful for other inflammation issues, including allergies and chronic muscle pain. Aromatherapy might also help mitigate arthritis pain.
Power of positivity. Your mood has an incredible effect on your overall well-being and can often have physical manifestations. Staying positive through meditation or daily reflection can help manage pain, while negative moods can often have the opposite effect. Doing yoga or engaging in daily inspirational or spiritual readings can help you maintain a positive outlook.