Arthritis is one of the most common health conditions in the U.S., with more than 54 million Americans affected and a projected 78 million to be affected by 2040. Caused by inflammation of the joints, people who suffer from arthritis experience significant stiffness and pain, with reduced range of motion and even skin irritation around joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, some of which can cause fatigue, loss of appetite, and even lower red blood cell counts.
Because the issue is so severe, the CDC, the Arthritis Foundation, and a number of other partners have named May Arthritis Awareness Month to raise awareness of arthritis, its symptoms, and its treatments. Because arthritis is so common, and because there are no cures for most types of arthritis, it’s important for those suffering from this condition to be aware of their treatment options. Arthritis can be extremely painful, and that pain must be managed responsibly as well as effectively.
With that in mind, here are a few common strategies for managing chronic pain from arthritis.
The most important thing a patient can do to manage their arthritis pain is to stay active at least 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes per week, according to the CDC. That said, not all activities are equally beneficial. Depending on where a patient is experiencing arthritic pain, they will want to choose activities that are “joint friendly,” such as swimming or using an elliptical exercise machine. Whatever exercise is chosen, it’s important to remember to start slowly to allow the body to warm up. If a particular exercise routine or activity worsens the pain, then it’s a good idea to stop that activity and find something else to replace it.
In addition to getting enough physical activity every day, it’s a good idea to do stretching exercises each day. This is especially important for staying active, as it helps the body to stay limber and flexible, maintaining range of motion.
Lose Weight and Gain Muscle
This is especially important for those suffering from arthritis pain in their back, neck, and shoulders, though it can be helpful for those with other affected areas. Being at a healthy weight is key to relieving physical stress on inflamed joints. Adding muscle will also help, acting as a cushion for joints and reducing soreness.
Consult a Professional
Often, using over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen is sufficient for managing every day aches. That said, patients with pain may be prescribed pain killers, including opiates, though that is only for patients with the most extreme and debilitating pain. It’s always best to speak with a medical professional about any symptoms a patient may be experiencing in order to develop a personalized approach to managing their pain.