What to Do When Your Arthritis Pain Flares Up
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What can I do when my arthritis starts bothering me?
You may be on a good therapeutic exercise program. You may be curtailing your activities. You may have the best shoes money can buy. But that knee of yours continues to swell, stiffen, and hurt. What can you do?
Arthritis pain management is a never-ending process, because arthritis never goes away. There will be good days and bad ones. Arthritis pain management involves understanding what triggers your pain, being able to recognize the onset of your symptoms, and having a plan to manage the pain once it begins. Consider this:
- If you know you're going to be on your feet a lot, wearing different shoes, encountering uneven terrain, walking up a lot of stairs, or basically doing more or different things than you're used to, be prepared to have to apply some type of modality to deal with the inevitable pain and stiffness.
- Aching in your joint is the first sign of an inflammatory reaction. Take heed and do what you can to halt the pain cycle. That may mean increasing medication, using ice or heat more frequently, or changing your level of activity.
- Ice is generally effective when there is warmth or swelling in the joint, or to help ease a sudden flare-up of arthritis pain. Heat works well on stiff, achy joints, particularly in the morning. Since arthritis is a chronic condition, there are no hard and fast rules about using ice versus heat.
- Contrast treatment, or alternating between heat and cold, may be beneficial when swelling and stiffness have lingered for a while and are limiting your mobility.
- If the weather changes, be prepared to feel it. Your joints act as barometers, so when pressure in the air increases, so does joint pain.
- Over-the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or a similar medicine, can help when taken at the onset of a flare-up, or as a preventative when you're anticipating a problem due to changes in your activity level.
Prolonged sitting, such as a long car ride or movie, can be quite difficult when you have arthritis pain. But once again, being prepared and proactive is the key:
- On long road trips, stop every hour or two for a few minutes so you can get up and walk around.
- When possible, periodically change the position of your joint by shifting in your seat or bending and straightening the leg.
- Keep ice or heat on hand in the form of an instant pack, frozen peas kept in a cooler, or a heating pad.
- Avoid salty foods or alcohol as they lead to fluid retention and joint swelling.
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