Osteoarthritis: Managing Pain
You don't have to live with pain. In fact, you owe it to yourself to
make sure your pain is treated. Pain can make it hard for you to be active
and take good care of yourself. Untreated pain may make sleeping difficult.
It may also lead to depression. There are things you can do and medications
you can use to help you find relief. If one method of pain relief doesn't
work for you, another may help. Discuss your options with your health care
provider to make sure that you understand the pros and cons of each treatment.
Heat and Ice
Heat helps relieve stiffness. It is often used for morning stiffness or before
exercise. Use low heat for no more than
20 minutes at a time. You may try:
A heating pad
An electric blanket
A warm shower
A jacuzzi or hot tub
Ice helps reduce pain and swelling. It is often used after activity. Ice the joint for
10-15 minutes at a time. You can use a cold pack or a bag of frozen vegetables
(such as peas). Make sure to keep a cloth between the cold source and
Some arthritis medications can be bought without a prescription.
Acetaminophen is effective for moderate pain and does not cause stomach upset. It doesn't
relieve swelling, though, and it cannot be taken if you have serious liver
or kidney problems.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, help relieve pain and swelling.
Use of NSAIDs can cause stomach problems.
Note: Do not take NSAIDs if you take medications that thin your blood, such
Some arthritis medications require a health care provider's prescription.
Prescription NSAIDs are stronger than over-the-counter NSAIDs. They reduce pain and swelling.
Use of NSAIDs may cause serious stomach problems and easy bruising. In
rare cases they may lead to kidney or liver problems.
COX-2 selective inhibitors are a new type of NSAID used to treat arthritis pain. They are less likely
to cause stomach problems than older kinds of NSAIDs. Other NSAIDs should
not be taken along with COX-2 inhibitors. Talk to your health care provider
before taking COX-2 inhibitors if you have a history of heart disease.
Lotions and creams can be applied directly to the affected joint. They
can be used along with some oral medications.
Aspirin creams may reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Capsaicin (hot pepper cream) is made from an ingredient found in chili peppers.
It works by stopping production of a substance that helps send pain signals
to the brain. It may cause a burning or stinging feeling when you first use it.