Understanding and managing chronic arthritis pain

Chronic arthritis pain, just as other kinds of chronic pain, impacts the physical, emotional, psychological and social well being of patients.

Patients with chronic pain generally show anxiety disorders and greater tendency for developing major depression. That is why it is important to understand the dynamics of chronic arthritis pain and learn how to manage it.

What is Pain?

Pain is basically the body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. The nervous system carries the pain signals to the brain when they respond to inflammation and tissue damage.

Arthritis pain is common:

In a recent poll conducted by The Gallup Organization, it was found that nine in ten Americans suffer from pain at least once every month, and more than 15% of these people suffered from chronic arthritic pain.

What happens in arthritis pain?

In arthritis, there is a progressive degeneration of cartilage, tissues and muscles in the joints. Arthritis pain can be caused by:

  • Inflammation
  • Damaged joint tissues
  • Strained muscles
  • Fatigue

Two kinds of pain are associated with arthritis:

  • Acute arthritis pain: This is temporary and goes away once healing occurs
  • Chronic arthritis pain: This kind of pain lasts for several weeks or even for a lifetime. It may come and go, or may continue as a dull ‘background noise’. Chronic pain is difficult to manage because treating it does not produce sufficient relief.

Fortunately, chronic arthritis pain can be managed.

1. The first step is to consult a doctor as soon as symptoms of pain make themselves felt. Start treatment early so you can arrest further inflammation.

2. Take over-the-counter medications after consulting with a doctor. Although pain meds like ibuprofen are common, they can lead to stomach problems.

3. Over-the-counter joint creams offer good relief from chronic arthritis pain. Some of these creams make the skin feel hot or cold; others may contain eucalyptus oil or chemicals that have a similar effect as aspirin. Some creams like the capsaicin cream can block signals of pain altogether.

4. Chronic pain may require the intake of corticosteroids. These are prescription meds that effectively suppress the immune system and mute the chronic pain caused by arthritis. These may have serious side effects and should not be taken in without a doctor’s consultation.

Natural ways of managing arthritis pain:

1. Ice packs and heating pads may be used to relieve chronic pain.

2. Shallaki or Boswellia extract has been shown to reduce inflammation and morning stiffness in people suffering from arthritis. This herb is found in India and is even famed to have the ability to build cartilage.

3. Ashwagandha or the Indian ginseng is also used to reduce inflammation.

4. Ginger root extracts also have been shown to offer pain relief to patients suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis.

In addition to these, diet control can also help bring chronic arthritis pain under control. Dairy products and alcohol increase inflammation.

Many types of red meats also contribute to inflammation and pain. Use flax seed oil, olive oil or sunflower oils as these are good for the body.

Pain management needs to be undertaken as a comprehensive strategy. It must include medication, lifestyle changes as well as the use of natural products that strengthen the body from the inside.

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