The pain caused by arthritis can be detrimental to your well being. However, an adequate treatment plan coupled with healthy habits can make a difference.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term that refers to various chronic illnesses affecting the joints. Roughly one out of seven people is affected by it. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of this disease. Osteoarthritis is much more common than rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, 1 out of 10 Canadians suffers from osteoarthritis, while only 1 out of 100 suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.
Pain is one of the typical symptoms of arthritis. It can come and go, but in most cases, the muted pain persists. In order to live better despite the pain, it is sometimes necessary to combine several strategies, such as medication and alternative treatments, to obtain optimal relief.
This text focuses on the relief of osteoarthritis pain.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
When a person has osteoarthritis, the joint's cartilage gradually deteriorates, making movement more difficult and painful. Osteoarthritis can affect several joints, including the hands, spinal column, knees, and hips.
Typical signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include the following:
- joint stiffness for 30 minutes after getting up (in the morning)
- joint discomfort or pain, especially during and after use, and during weather changes
- loss of strength and flexibility in the joints
- joint crepitus (cracking)
- joint swelling and deformity
What are the possible treatments?
In some cases, osteoarthritis symptoms cause enough discomfort to warrant the use of reliever medications. Many of these drugs are available over-the-counter. Here are some examples.
Use of this well-known medication is widespread. Acetaminophen is used to ease pain of various origins. Due to its favourable side effect profile, it is considered as a front-line treatment for osteoarthritis pain. In fact, acetaminophen is very safe when dosage is followed. However, high doses of the drug can pose a health risk.
If you take acetaminophen, speak to your doctor and pharmacist to ensure that you are making optimal and safe use of it.
This class of medications, often used as a second-line treatment, allows effective relief of pain and inflammation. Some over-the-counter formulations are taken by mouth, while others are applied topically (local). A consultation with a pharmacist is sometimes necessary to obtain them. Doctors sometimes prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs requiring a prescription to ease osteoarthritis pain.
These types of drugs sometimes pose a risk of adverse effects, and it is necessary to take into account certain contraindications and warnings. Additionally, anti-inflammatory drugs may interact with other medications. This is why it is important to always speak with a healthcare professional (doctor or pharmacist) before taking them.
In some cases, other options, such as the prescription of various medications, the injection of a liquid similar to synovial fluid (fluid that protects the joints), and complementary treatment methods, should be considered. In the most serious cases, surgery may be considered.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural products that are believed to be effective in reducing osteoarthritis pain. However, they must be taken during several weeks before the benefits can be felt. It is always important to ask the advice of a pharmacist before taking a natural product.
Beyond medication, what can be done to reduce pain?
When you live with arthritis, certain measures or lifestyle changes can help prevent or reduce pain. Here are a few tips:
- rest the painful joint if you feel fatigue, discomfort or pain. Caution, immobility sometimes worsens symptoms.
- Exercise regularly. A physiotherapist could recommend exercises intended to strengthen your muscles and increase mobility.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts a strain on your joints, including the spinal column, knees, and hips.
- When pain is acute, apply heat or cold to ease pain and stiffness. Sometimes, heat is preferable, other times cold. Speak to a healthcare professional about this issue.
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about arthritic pain relief.