Arthritis literally means fire in the joints.
Though there’s no cure, there are ways to douse the flames. The individualized nature of the disease, which has 100 distinct forms, means that what works
for your neighbor might not work for you. But take heart: Working closely with your health care professional, you can develop a plan to help manage the pain.
Your plan might include one or more of the following components:
Pain medicine. For most people with arthritis, the regimen includes some kind of medication.
This helpful web site from the Arthritis Foundation explains the various
options, including side effects you should be aware of.
Exercise. Getting regular, low-impact exercise is a great way to improve your joint and muscle
strength, flexibility, stamina, and overall health. Frequent exercise can also help you shed extra pounds to lighten the load on your sore joints.
Low impact is the way to go: walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and tai chi are all excellent activities for arthritis sufferers, but be
sure to consult with your doctor or another health care professional first.
Diet. Can changing your diet alleviate your arthritis symptoms? Perhaps. Some people say switching to a vegetarian diet or eliminating
dairy products, wheat, and night shade vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplants have made a world of difference. Conversely, diets high in
saturated fat or vegetable oils seem to exacerbate inflammation.
The Arthritis Foundation says more research is necessary to understand how foods affect arthritis. In the meantime, the foundation advises against
miracle cure diets and focuses instead on a healthy, well-balanced diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods.
Herbs and supplements. Herbal remedies promoted for the treatment of arthritis include ginger, Chinese thunder god vine, willow
bark extract, feverfew, cat’s claw, and stinging nettle. Bear in mind, though, that the FDA doesn’t verify the content or health claims of herbal
products. Also, leading arthritis organizations, including the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, say there is no
scientific basis for advertised claims that natural remedies are as effective and safe as conventional arthritis medicines.
Some studies suggest that chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine supplements, used separately or in combination, can relieve arthritis pain, but other
studies have shown no benefit. A recent trial supported by the National Institutes of Health found no clear evidence for pain relief. Even so, the
American College of Rheumatology says these supplements appear to be safe and worth considering for people who have severe pain despite conventional
Surgery. Joint surgery is an option for some people when other treatment methods don’t lessen their arthritis pain. With arthroscopy,
a surgeon can view and repair the inside of a joint through small openings in the skin. Another procedure, called a synovectomy, involves surgically
removing the diseased lining of the joint. Surgeons can also replace damaged joints with artificial joints to relieve pain and possibly restore some
joint motion and function.
Heat and cold treatments. Cold numbs the sore area and reduces inflammation and swelling, while heat relaxes your muscles and stimulates blood
circulation. Alternating between hot and cold treatments can also provide temporary relief.
Bracing. Orthotic devices such as canes, shoe wedges, and knee braces can help relieve arthritis pain and improve joint function.
Alternative Treatments. Massage therapy, acupuncture, hypnosis, and rhythmic breathing exercises can help ease arthritis
pain or take your mind off of it. Positive thinking and humor can help you feel better, too.
The Arthritis Foundation’s online Pain Center offers a wealth of resources. Here’s the
link: http://ww2.arthritis.org/conditions/pain_center/default.asp .
Knowing the source of your pain and understanding possible remedies will help you live with your arthritis pain.