Sunday, February 27, 2022

Stiff Joints - How to Treat the Pain and Discomfort

 A friend of mine recently joked that "if you are over 70, wake up one morning, and do NOT feel any pain, you are probably dead!"  The truth is that most of us feel some stiffness, achiness or pain in the last few decades of life. It can happen either when we first get up in the morning or after a long day of activity.  It is tempting to respond to the pain by reducing our activity, because no one likes to be in pain.  However, is there a better way to handle this discomfort?

Fortunately, WebMD has written an informative article on their website called "Why Do My Joints Hurt?"  It is summarized below, along with their suggestions for minimizing the pain and discomfort. However, it is important to note that if your pain is severe, suddenly increases, or becomes acute, you should see your doctor.  If you experience severe pain after a fall or injury, or if your joint looks deformed, swollen or is hot to the touch, go to Urgent Care to get an x-ray and/or an MRI. Serious joint and bone injuries cannot be treated with a little Tylenol and an ice pack.

For a more detailed approach to dealing with your chronic joint pain, you may also want to read the "Mayo Clinic Guide to Arthritis: Managing Joint Pain for an Active Life." (Ad)  The Mayo Clinic is well respected and the information they provide is reliable and helpful.  This book is well worth reading for anyone who is suffering from arthritis or similar causes of chronic pain.

However, if you are simply experiencing a little stiffness and soreness from your normal activities, you may want to try these suggestions from WebMD to make your days a more comfortable and fun.

*  Keep moving - The synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant in your joints requires movement in order to keep your joints loose.  Being too sedentary makes your stiffness worse.  Taking gentle walks or doing a little housework or gardening are excellent ways to keep your body moving.  If even a small amount of movement makes things worse, see your doctor.

*  How to treat symptoms of Osteoarthritis - When the cartilage at the ends of your bones begins to wear out, the bones begin to rub on each other.  Tiny pieces of bone can even break off and cause more pain. If your doctor diagnoses you with osteoarthritis, you may try over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, Motrin, or Aleve,  (Ad) as well as some of the other suggestions below, to deal with the pain and swelling. 

*  How to treat your Rheumatoid Arthritis - This is an autoimmune disease which causes your own body to attack your joints.  It often causes pain, swelling and disfigurement of the hands, but can attack other joints, as well. It can be intermittent, may seem to go away, and then comes back.  It is important to discuss your treatment options with a doctor. They can prescribe special disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs which are much more effective than over-the-counter pain relievers. 

*  How to treat other types of Arthritis and Illnesses - Although Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are the most common causes of joint pain, there are other types of illnesses which can also cause pain, stiffness and joint damage.  Make sure you discuss your symptoms with your doctor so you are certain you are treating the type of arthritis or disease which may be causing your problems.  With the right diagnosis and treatment, you may be able to dramatically reduce the inflammation which is causing your pain.  Do not try to guess what you have.  The damage may become worse if you are not treating your condition correctly. 

*  Avoid injury to your joints - Some types of joint pain may be caused by bursitis or tendonitis.  Both of these can be very painful.  However, they can often be treated with over-the-counter pain killers, resting the sore joint, and applying ice.  Your doctor or physical therapist may also recommend specific exercises to help the joint and strengthen the muscles around it.  In some cases, a doctor may inject a drug into the joint to reduce the pain.  They may also suggest you avoid certain repetitive movements so you do not continue to injure the same joint. 

*  Lose weight - If you are overweight, it puts extra stress on your joints.  Losing weight may help decrease your pain.

*  Get physical therapy - You may need to strengthen certain muscles, or learn better ways to move in order to decrease the pain on your joints.  Physical therapy can help you perform the correct exercises to alleviate your joint pain, as well as guide you in improving the way you move.  I received physical therapy for some mild arthritis in my hip, and was amazed by the difference it made.

*  Try heat therapy - Taking a warm shower or bath is a great way to loosen your joints, especially in the morning.  You can also apply heat for 20 minutes by using a heating pad or even a damp washcloth that has been heated in the microwave for a minute.  Be careful not to burn yourself, however!

*  Try cold therapy - Apply an ice pack, a drug store cold pack, or a package of frozen vegetables to the sore joint for about 20 minutes.  Be sure to wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel, however, so you do not damage your skin. 

*  Consider taking supplements for joint pain - Discuss supplements with your doctor before self-diagnosing and treating your condition.  However, with your doctor's permission, you may want to try the most common supplements mentioned in the WebMD article "Supplements for Arthritis and Joint Pain."  These supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, and Vitamin D.  Your doctor or a chiropractor may also suggest other anti-inflammatory supplements, depending on the cause of your sore inflamed joints. 

*  Eat an anti-inflammatory diet - Because joint pain can be made worse by inflammation, some people have found relief by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.  You can find some great ideas in "The Anti-Inflammatory Diet Slow Cooker Cookbook."  (Ad)  A simple change in what you eat could help reduce your suffering.

If you keep moving as much as possible, and work with your doctor and physical therapist to minimize your pain, you should be able to experience less discomfort from your stiff joints.  However, remember that a certain amount of mild morning discomfort or soreness after exercise is normal.  Do not let it cause you to become sedentary.  

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