It Is Time to Seek Help for Your Joint Pain?

Many different conditions can lead to joint pain, including osteoarthritis, strains, sprains, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Joint pain is extremely common. In a national survey, about one-third of adults reported having joint pain within the past 30 days. Joint pain can affect any part of your body and can range from mildly irritating to debilitating. Joint pain may go away after a few weeks (acute), or last for several weeks or months (chronic). Even short-term pain and swelling in the joints can affect your quality of life.

Managing Your Care At Home

Joint pain is not usually an emergency, and most cases of mild joint pain can successfully be managed at home. When caring for joint pain at home you can follow these simple guidelines:

  • Avoid activities that cause or worsen your pain.
  • Apply ice to your painful joint for 15-20 minutes a few times a day.
  • Apply a heating pad, soak in a warm tub, or take a warm shower to relax muscles and increase circulation.
  • Try an over the counter (OTC) pain reliever such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen (Alieve) or Tylenol. Short-term use of these medications is appropriate, but prolonged use can lead to complications and side effects.

Potential Treatment Plans

When joint pain does not respond to remedies and treatments, you need to seek further help from a qualified physician to assess your pain and decreased function. A physical exam and further imaging of your joint, if necessary, can help with diagnosis and treatment. After evaluation, your physician will set up an appropriate plan for treatment, which may include:

Change in lifestyle:

  • Utilize good posture.
  • Keep your joints moving with appropriate activities (daily stretches and strengthening).
  • Know your limits.
  • Lose weight (being overweight can lead to increased pressure on joints and worsen osteoarthritis).
  • Quit smoking (smoking causes stress on connective tissue and delays healing)

Exercise:

  • Choose the right kind of activities, including activities that build muscle around your joints but do not damage them. An exercise program and these treatments can be explained and demonstrated to you by a physical therapist.
  • What to avoid: high impact activities, repeat movements, jumping and running

Injections:

  • A joint injection can be given to help with other mentioned treatments.The injection may decrease inflammation and help with pain. Injections can be corticosteroid, or hyaluronic acid injections.

Pain and Emotional Well-being

It is no surprise that arthritis pain has a negative effect on your mood. If everyday activities make you hurt, you are bound to feel discouraged.  When normal feelings escalate to create a constant refrain of fearful, hopeless thoughts, your pain can actually get worse and harder to manage. In order to help with these feelings, light medications or even counseling can be considered as part of your treatment plan.

Whatever your condition, it will be easier to stay ahead of your pain if you:

  • Educate yourself about your condition, including what type of arthritis you have and whether any of your joints that are already damaged.
  • Speak with your doctor, friends, and family in managing your pain.
  • Tell your doctor if your pain changes or if you have any questions.

Things to Avoid

  • Overtreatment. Talk with your doctor if you find yourself using over-the-counter pain relievers regularly.
  • Under treatment. Do not try to ignore severe and prolonged arthritis pain. You might have joint inflammation or damage requiring daily medication.
  • Focusing only on pain. Depression is more common in people with arthritis. Doctors have found that treating depression with antidepressants and other therapies reduces not only depression symptoms but also arthritis pain.

Although mild, short-term pain is common, severe or debilitating pain is never normal. This requires further evaluation and treatment by a physician who specializes in joint pain treatment.  A thorough evaluation by your physician can help you go through all options available for treatment. Most options that are available are considered conservative and can significantly improve pain and function.


Dr. Szepiela is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, sports medicine and has a specialized interest in spinal intervention. Learn more about him through his contributor bio and physician profile.

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