Joint pain treatment
Most successful treatment programs for joint problems involve a combination of customized treatments based on a person’s needs, lifestyle, and health. Most programs include ways to manage pain and improve function. The goals for treating joint damage include:
People diagnosed with joint damage are more likely to try alternative therapies when conventional medical treatment doesn't provide sufficient pain relief. Some alternative therapies used to treat joint damage and/or arthritis includes:
Acupuncture - For pain relief, acupuncturists insert fine needles at specific points on the skin which may stimulate the release of natural, pain-relieving chemicals produced by the nervous system.
Folk remedies - Folk remedies include wearing copper bracelets, drinking herbal teas, taking mud baths, and rubbing chemicals on joints to "lubricate" them.
Heat and cold - Heat, cold, or a combination of the two can treat joint pain. Heat can be applied with warm towels, hot packs, or a warm bath or shower - to increase blood flow and ease pain and stiffness. Cold packs can reduce inflammation to relieve pain or numb a sore area.
Massage - During a massage, a therapist lightly strokes and/or kneads painful muscles around a joint to increase blood flow and bring warmth to a stressed area.
Nutritional supplements - Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been reported to improve the symptoms of joint pain, as have certain vitamins.
Relaxation techniques - Relaxation techniques, stress reduction, and biofeedback can help relieve symptoms of joint pain, especially at night.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) - TENS uses a small electronic device to direct mild electric pulses to nerve endings that lie beneath the skin in a painful area. TENS works to relieve arthritic pain by blocking pain messages to the brain and modifying pain perception.
People diagnosed with joint damage, pain or arthritis who are overweight or obese should try to lose weight. Weight loss can reduce stress on weight-bearing joints, limit further injury, and increase mobility. Dieticians help develop healthy eating habits by creating a healthy diet and regular exercise plan.
You can also work with a physical or occupational therapy to develop a customized exercise plan based on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has already been done. You can use exercises to keep strong and limber, improve cardiovascular fitness, extend range of motion, and reduce weight. The following types of exercise are often recommended in treatment plans for joint damage.
Aerobic activities - Walking or low-impact aerobics get the heart pumping and can keep your lungs and circulatory system in shape.
Agility exercises - Suggested to help you maintain daily living skills.
Range-of-motion activities - These activities help keep joints limber.
Strengthening exercises - These exercises strengthen muscles that support joints affected by arthritis and are performed with weights or with exercise bands.
Join pain may flare from time to time. In order to prevent and cope with these flares in pain and stiffness, try self-care techniques. For example, exercise can decrease pain, increase flexibility, strengthen the heart and improve blood flow, maintain weight, and promote general physical fitness. Walking, swimming, and water aerobics are popular types of exercise for people who experience joint damage. In addition, try to:
Assistive devices can help avoid placing addition stress on a painful joint. For example, a cane may take weight off the knee or hip as you walk. Some use splints or braces to provide extra support for joints and/or keep them in proper position during sleep or activity. Gripping and grabbing tools may make it easier to work. A doctor or occupational therapist can suggest different types of assistive devices. Or, look in catalogs and medical supply stores for ideas.
Doctors prescribe medicines to eliminate or reduce pain and to improve joint function. Discuss factors such as the intensity of pain, potential side effects, medical history and other medications with your doctor before you start taking any new medication. It is important to notes that most medicines for arthritis have side effects, even those that don’t require a prescription. The following types of medicines are commonly used in treating degenerative joint problems:
Acetaminophen - This medicine is commonly used to relieve pain, without a prescription. It is often the first medication doctors recommend for people diagnosed with arthritis because of its safety.
Corticosteroids - Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory hormones that are injected into the affected joints to temporarily relieve pain or taken orally. This type of medicine is generally recommended as an occasional therapy, not more than two to four treatments per year.
Hyaluronic acid substitutes - Also called viscosupplements, these products are injected into a joint to replace normal joint lubrication and nutrition. Injections of hyaluronic acid derivatives may offer pain relief by providing some cushioning in a joint.
Narcotics - Narcotics are generally prescribed for short-term use. Medications containing narcotic analgesics such as codeine, propoxyphene, tramadol or hydrocodone are often effective against joint related pain but may create physical and psychological dependence.
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) - A large class of medications useful against both pain and inflammation, (NSAIDs) are often prescribed for treating joint pain to block prostaglandins that contribute to inflammation and pain. Any person taking NSAIDS regularly should be monitored by a doctor due to possible side effects and effects of combining with other drugs. NSAIDS include:
- COX-2 inhibitors
- naproxen sodium
Topical ointments - Pain-relieving creams, rubs, and sprays are applied directly to the skin over painful joints and work to stimulate the nerve endings to distract the brain's attention from the joint pain, decrease substances that send pain messages to the brain, or block chemicals that cause pain and inflammation.
For many people, surgery helps relieve the pain and disability that can be caused by joint damage. The decision to use surgery to treat joint damage depends on a person’s age, occupation, level of disability, pain intensity, and the degree to which arthritis interferes with lifestyle. Surgery can result in less pain and swelling and increased movement within a joint.
Surgery may be performed to:
Prostheses, or artificial joints, can be made from metal alloys, high-density plastic, and/or ceramic material. Some prostheses are joined to bone surfaces; others are made of porous surfaces and rely on the growth of bone into that surface to hold them in place.
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