Joint pain, such as that caused by arthritis and other conditions, can be a daily challenge that lasts for many years. Medications used to relieve pain have their own side effects, and are often not recommended for long-term use. While joint pain can be debilitating and annoying, there are several ways you can relieve your discomfort without the use of medication.
Heat and Cold
Alternating hot and cold therapy has been shown to be effective for many who have joint pain on a regular basis. The basic concept is that both heat and cold have their benefits to reducing pain and inflammation. Heat can increase blood flow to the area while relaxing surrounding muscles and connective tissues, while cold can help to reduce inflammation and swelling around the joint. Use heating pads, warm compresses, or warm-water soaks to the affected area for 15 minutes, or a time recommended by your physician. Then apply cold through the use of an ice pack, compress, or even a bag of frozen peas. Repeat this process several times throughout the day.
If you are overweight, your joints bear the burden of the excess pounds. Increased pressure can lead to inflammation and pain. Even losing as little as 10 percent of your current body weight will have a tremendous impact on the health of your joints. Talk to your doctor to see if this could be a treatment option and how to lose weight safely.
Healthy, Balanced Diet
Certain refined and processed foods can often cause an inflammatory response in the body, collecting around the joints. When you eat a variety of healthy foods, especially those containing omega-3s and various fruits and vegetables, you are giving your body the right nutrients to heal and fight inflammation. Certain foods, such as pineapple and turmeric, may also reduce pain. Drink plenty of water as well to help remove inflammation-producing toxins from your body.
When joints are sore and painful, the last thing you may consider is exercise. However, gentle stretching can help to increase range of motion in stiff joints and can reduce inflammation and pain. Use slow, gentle motions to slowly increase your flexibility and range of motion over time. Meditative stretching, such as yoga and tai chi, seem to have an additional pain-relieving benefit due to the focused concentration and awareness of the mind-body connection. Join a group class session or find a DVD to use at home.
It is important to get enough of the right type of exercise to increase blood flow and flexibility to stiff, painful joints. Avoid high-impact exercises, which can make the pain worse. Instead, opt for low-impact activities such as walking, bicycling, and swimming. Aquatic exercises are a great way to reduce impact on the joints while helping you to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Having your own pool or hot tub in your backyard can be convenient, as heat therapy and swimming exercises can go hand in hand here.
When you go to physical therapy, you can learn various exercises and movements that can reduce your pain and inflammation while increasing flexibility, and you can also receive additional treatments as recommended by your therapists. Electrical stimulation, massage, and ultrasound can also help to reduce pain by stimulating the nerves in the area.
No matter which option, or options you choose, it is important that you stop immediately and consult with your healthcare provider if the pain increases or becomes worse during an activity. Handling your pain without the use of medication can help to reduce unwanted side effects and will help you learn healthy new behaviors that can last a lifetime.