About 54.4 million American adults are affected by arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re one of them, the joint pain, stiffness, and swelling that characterizes the disease is all too familiar.
Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. Its most common form is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage that cushions joints breaks down, causing bones to rub together. Another common type is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition.
Whether your knees, hips, or hands are affected, arthritis relief is possible. If you’re suffering from arthritis, try these nine ways to ease pain, minimize joint damage, and improve function.
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Follow These 9 Tips to Help Improve Your Arthritis Pain
1. Keep Moving
When your joints are aching, exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do. But staying active is actually one of the best ways to relieve arthritis. It can decrease pain and stiffness, improve range of motion, and strengthen the muscles that support your joints. The key is to opt for low-impact activities such as swimming, water-based aerobics, cycling, stretching, and walking.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Extra pounds put pressure on your joints, especially your hips, knees, and ankles. According to the National Institutes of Health, if you’re overweight or obese, losing 10 to 20 percent of your body weight could help improve symptoms of arthritis.
3. Protect Your Joints
Injuries can further damage arthritic joints, so know your limits. Avoid activities that put stress on your joints, and wear protective equipment if your job or hobby involves repetitive movements.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking can harm your joints and connective tissue and has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis. People with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have plaque in their arteries; smoking increases this risk. Smoking can also make arthritis treatments less effective.
5. Use Pain Relievers Wisely
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help ease arthritis pain and inflammation. Just be sure to talk with your doctor if you find yourself relying on pain relievers; regular use can cause issues, including gastrointestinal woes.
6. Try a Topical Treatment
See if a topical treatment works for you. Creams and ointments containing capsaicin — the compound that gives chili peppers their heat — can provide arthritis relief. But be careful not to apply it to broken or irritated skin.
7. Heat Up and Cool Down
Alternating between heat and cold on the arthritic area can temporarily ease pain and inflammation. Try switching between hot and cold baths or showers, or alternating hot water bottles or heating pads with cold packs.
8. Learn to Manage Stress
Having arthritis can be stressful and stress can worsen pain, leading to a vicious cycle. Successfully managing stress could go a long way toward improving your arthritis symptoms. Find a relaxation technique that works for you, such as deep breathing or meditation, and practice it regularly. Talking with a therapist also can be helpful.
9. Consider Complementary Care
Some people with arthritis find relief from complementary approaches, such as acupuncture and massage. Most complementary treatments are safe when practiced by a trained professional, but it’s a good idea to check with your doctor first.
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As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, UPMC treats a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. Whether you have bone, muscle, or joint pain, we provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. As leaders in research and clinical trials with cutting-edge tools and techniques, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside appears on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top hospitals in the country for orthopaedics.