Permanent and complete arthritis pain relief can be very difficult to achieve because most treatments only treat the pain and do not really fix the problem.
The most common cause of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This is the wear and tear type of arthritis that develops when the cartilage in a joint becomes worn or damaged. This can cause swelling and inflammation that is very painful and causes you to stop using or protect that joint as much as possible.
This can occur in any joint but is probably most common in weight bearing joints like your knees or hips, or in joints that are constantly moving like your fingers and hands or in your spine.
Most treatments for arthritis are aimed at reducing inflammation because it is really the inflammatory chemicals that make the nerves very sensitive to pain. When you can take away the inflammation the pain will get slightly better.
When you are having a flare up of arthritis the first line of treatment is to limit your activity and apply ice or a cold pack to the joint. You can also take over the counter anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen. These medications have risks and can affect your stomach, heart or kidneys so make sure and check with your doctor before starting any new medication.
Treat Your Pain with Rest
Limiting your activity can bring arthritis pain relief by by not causing additional swelling and inflammation, but complete rest can make the problem worse. Using a joint too little may lead to stiffness and pain that is worse than the pain you had to begin with.
Plus, when you completely immobilize a joint it allows the inflammatory chemicals to accumulate which makes the nerves more sensitive and the pain worse. This is why arthritic pain is usually worst in the morning after you have been lying still all night. Moving a joint through a full range of motion every 30 minutes will help flush these chemicals out and prevent stiffness.
Treat Your Pain with Cold Therapy
Cold packs can be applied to the area. This can reduce swelling and provide some local anesthesia to the area. Put cold packs on for 15 minutes and off for 15 minutes, and never apply ice directly to the skin. A bag of frozen peas from your freezer makes an excellent cold pack, but always wrap it in a t-shirt or a light towel to prevent skin damage.
When conservative treatments such as cold therapy and limited activity do not resolve your pain and allow you to return to full activity you may need to consider more aggressive treatments such as:
•Corticosteroid Injection Therapies
•Total Joint Replacement Surgery
Anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful if allowed by your doctor. They can reduce inflammation and relieve pain, but unfortunately they do not fix the problem and when they wear off the pain can return. If you develop stomach pain or heartburn kind of sensations with these medicines you should discuss it with your doctor, but you may not be able to take anti-inflammatories.
Topical anti-inflammatory drugs are a cream or a salve that is applied to the skin. This avoids the possible stomach problems from these treatments. This can be very helpful for small joints and joints that are close enough to the skin surface that the medicine can soak into the joint.
When cold packs and rest and anti-inflammatory medications are not able to make you more comfortable you may want to discuss steroid injections with your doctor. If those are not an option for you, or if they are not helpful, you may need to see a surgeon about a total joint replacement.
Steroid injections can be most helpful for flare ups of arthritis or other joint pain after an accident or injury such as a fall or a weekend of gardening or other activities that you are not used to. In these cases steroids can relieve the flare up and you will return to whatever level of pain you had before that.
When you have chronic pain from osteoarthritis an injection of steroid medication may help, but the pain will often come right back, often within one or two days. When the arthritis is severe an injection may not help at all.
When you have tried all of the other treatments and nothing will relieve your pain enough to allow you to live your life you may need to consider joint replacement. These can be very helpful for relieving joint pain because the joint is completely removed, but people are not always happy with their final result.
Hips and knees are the most common joints that are replaced. Shoulder replacements are becoming more common and you can find very specialized surgeons who are doing ankle, elbow and wrist replacements.
Unfortunately There are No Perfect Treatments for Arthritis
Most people are happy with their joint replacement outcome, but there can be problems with scar tissue and nerve damage or entrapment that causes limited range of motion and/or chronic pain. Sometimes people will undergo a second surgery to try and resolve these problems but the results are mixed and the final outcome may still be unsatisfactory.
Some arthritis pain relief can usually be achieved with safe and simple methods that have few side effects, and even after very aggressive treatments there can still be problems.