Many people with arthritis tend to be living with chronic pain. This can be one of the hardest parts of having arthritis. The arthritis pain may be constant, and it may come and go. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for arthritis. Which means for some, their arthritis pain can last a lifetime.
From sore finger joints to sore ankle joints, here are some tips to help relieve arthritis pain.
#1. Take your Arthritis Medication
It is important to continue to take medications recommended to you by your specialist, GP, or healthcare team. Over the counter or prescription medications play an important role in relieving joint pain and inflammation. Always speak with your GP and/or specialist before stopping or changing your medications.
Some people may need to try different medications before they find the right one for them. If you have any side effects, speak with your doctor and/or specialist.
#2. Keep Your Joints Active and Moving
Research shows that regular appropriate exercise can help reduce arthritis pain. Activities such as, walking, water aerobics, tai chi or strength training can help relieve joint pain, and improve flexibility, balance, and strength. Doing exercises that increases your heart rate, like swimming or biking, can improve your heart health too. Exercise not only keeps you active, but it also keeps your joints moving.
Exercise for some people can be the best form of pain relief for arthritis. It can give you more energy, reduce stress and help you sleep better.
Check out our online exercise programs and warm water exercise class.
#3. Follow Healthy Habits
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, consuming healthy foods and quitting smoking may help relieve joint pain.
Excess weight can increase the pressure on weight-bearing joints (like knees) and increase pain. Adipose tissue (our fat tissue) can also send out chemical signals that increase inflammation. Maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial for relieving arthritis pain and reducing some of the symptoms associated with arthritis.
Eating a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean meats can be beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. This may help relieve joint pain when done alongside regular exercise.
A large amount of research shows that smoking can contribute to the development of certain types of arthritis. Quitting smoking can reduce the damage and pain associated with arthritis, and improve the chances of your medication working. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting or call Quitline on 13 7848
Read our free articles on healthy eating, smoking and exercise here
#4. Build Your Health Care Team
Allied health professionals, such as Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist, Podiatrist, Occupational Therapist, and Hand Specialist, may be helpful in providing techniques for arthritis pain management.
- For example, a Hand Specialist may provide some techniques to reduce pain in sore finger joints.
- A Podiatrist may help relieve arthritis pain in your feet.
- An Occupational Therapist can help people with arthritis participate in activities safely and enhance their quality of life.
- A Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist can prescribe exercises and stretches to protect joints and manage arthritis pain.
#5. Learn Relaxation & Pain Coping Skills
A trained professional, such as a psychologist, can help you learn relaxation and pain coping skills so you can better manage your arthritis pain. Some of these techniques include:
- Deep breathing, guided imagery (mental pictures), and progressive muscle relaxation. These can help reduce muscle tension and stress.
- These techniques need to be practised and you may have to try several methods before you find one that works for you.
- You may find it helpful to use mindfulness podcasts and apps, or recordings, CDs and books to help you learn relaxation techniques.
#6. Stay Socially Connected
Living with arthritis can impact people differently. Some people with chronic arthritis pain find that their diagnosis effects their social life or friendships. For some, connecting with people who understand, or finding ways to keep busy by doing things they enjoy can boost their ability to cope with pain.
- Some people find by doing their hobbies or spending time with family and friends can be beneficial for arthritis pain management.
- Online or local interest or support groups can be a great way to connect with like-minded people. You can connect with others living with arthritis in our online support groups.
- Looking for more support? Speak to someone who understands what you are going through. Our Arthritis Assist telephone service can match you up with a fully trained peer-mentor who lives with arthritis like you.
#7. Consider therapies that may provide short-term pain relief
There are some treatments or therapies that are not part of conventional or medical treatment for a disease, but which may help in finding relief from pain. While there may be little scientific proof of their benefits for arthritis pain, some people may find them beneficial as part of their pain management plan. Some examples that are used by some people for arthritis are:
- Hot or cold therapy – While the benefits have not been proven by research yet, these treatments can be soothing and safe when used carefully. Some people find hot and cold therapy effective for osteoarthritis pain relief and relieving joint pain. Heat relaxes your muscles and stimulates blood circulation. You could try a warm bath, a heat pack or hot water bottle on the painful area for 15 minutes. Cold numbs painful areas and reduces swelling. Applying cold packs or ice packs on the painful area for 15 minutes may be useful for hot, swollen joints. For more information, check out our free article on Hot and Cold Therapies.
- Massage – some people find massage helps relieve arthritis pain. When booking your appointment, make sure the masseuse has experience working with people with arthritis. You can find a qualified therapist by contacting Massage & Myotherapy Australia.
- Acupuncture – ancient Chinese practice of putting small, thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body to block the pain signal. Some people may find acupuncture useful alongside other proven treatments, such as medicines. Be sure to mention your arthritis condition to the therapist. The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association can help you find an accredited practitioner.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – A TENS machine applies very mild electric pulses to block pain messages going from the painful area to your brain. TENS can be useful for longer-term pain but does not work for all people. See a physiotherapist to trial a TENS machine, and to learn how to use it correctly before you buy one.
For more information, read our free infosheet on Complementary Therapies.
It is important to note with these therapies that there are limited studies proving their benefits for arthritis pain and mobility of joints and muscles. They may work for some people, and they may not work for others. Always speak with your doctor or specialist before starting any new treatments or therapies to be sure it is safe and suitable for you.
Arthritis pain may limit some of the things you can do, but it doesn’t have to control your life. With the support of your healthcare team and family or friends, you can learn ways to manage your own arthritis pain. What works for one person may not work for another. You may have to try various techniques until you find what works best for you.
Arthritis Pain Management FAQs
Does Arthritis Make you Tired?
Yes. Arthritis can make you tired and fatigued.
Fatigue is one of the most common and can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of arthritis. Most people who live with arthritis also have fatigue. Unfortunately, fatigue has also been shown to make other arthritis symptoms worse, such as pain and stiffness.
A lack of energy may be caused by inflammatory diseases and other health conditions. It can also be caused from medication side effects and lifestyle habits.
For more information on ways to manage fatigue, read our free article on Fatigue and Arthritis.
Can Arthritis come on suddenly?
This can depend on various factors. It depends on the person, the severity of the arthritis, and the type of arthritis.
For some, symptoms can develop suddenly or gradually over time. The symptoms may come and go or persist over time. It is best to talk with your GP about your arthritis symptoms.
See more information on arthritis and its symptoms.
Does Arthritis hurt all the time?
This can depend on the type of arthritis and its severity. It can also depend on the person and if the arthritis is located in one area or in multiple joints.
Arthritis pain can be ongoing or can come and go. It may occur whilst moving or after you have been still for some time. You may feel pain in one spot or in many parts of your body. Arthritis pain and stiffness may be more severe during certain times of the day or after certain tasks.
Visit our webpage for more information on the different types of arthritis and their symptoms.
Can you have joint pain without Arthritis?
Yes. There are many different reasons why your joints may be sore. Not all pain in muscles and joints is caused by arthritis.
The pain can be from an injury or using your joints and muscles in an unusual way (for example, playing a new sport or lifting heavy boxes).
Talk to your doctor if you have pain and stiffness that starts for no clear reason, lasts for more than a few days, comes on with swelling, and redness and warmth of your joints.