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7 Effective Ways to Manage Joint Pain


Source: Peter Dazeley/ Getty Images

Joint pain is a common manifestation of musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis or joint injuries. In some cases, like osteoarthritis, the pain is also accompanied by swelling and stiffness. This severely affects the patient’s quality of daily living due to the limited number of activities they can do.


However, there are many ways to manage joint pain. Here is a list of things you can do to help reduce the pain.


1. Exercise

A study involving 786 osteoarthritis patients has shown that muscle strengthening and range of motion exercises have demonstrated significant improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms such as reduction in pain and improvement in physical function compared to the no-exercise group.¹ This benefits of exercising for joint pain have also been demonstrated by other similar studies.²


Aside from strengthening the muscles, physical activity also contributes to weight loss which can be beneficial by reducing the strain on weight-bearing joints like the knee.² Swimming, elliptical training, cycling and upper body exercise are good choices as they do not put too much strain on the joints.


2. Joint Assistive Devices

There are braces or splints widely available in pharmacies that allow better support for joints. These can be useful for short-term injuries, joint conditions and also prevention of injury.³ It is important to select the right brace or splint depending on the type of injury or joint condition you have. For example, a knee brace has been found to help reduce pain and improve function in a study involving 119 osteoarthritis patients.⁴


The use of a cane can also help reduce the load on the hip and knee joints by 20 to 30% but it needs to be properly fitted and used to be effective.


3. Joint Supplements

A safer alternative to medications would be supplements or what some refer to as ‘complementary medicines’. Common joint supplements include Indian frankincense, turmeric and glucosamine that have been shown to improve symptoms of osteoarthritis. For example, AFLAPIN (a patented formula of Indian frankincense) was demonstrated in a study to provide significant improvements in joint pain and stiffness in as early as 7 days.⁵


Turmeric, on the other hand, has been used traditionally as a medicine for decades and is reported to have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.⁶


4. Physical Therapy

Those with joint pain may also benefit from physical therapy. The goals of physical therapy typically include restoring function of affected joints, increasing muscle strength and maintaining the ability to perform daily tasks.⁷


A physical therapist can provide an individualized exercise program, teach the patient how to use heat and massage as therapy and properly use assistive devices.⁷


Source: Pakkapol/ Abobe Stock | Compression and cold applications can help reduce joint pain and swelling after an injury

1. Home Care (R.I.C.E.R.)⁸

In some cases, like after an injury to the knee or ankles, you can relieve pain and reduce swelling with Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral (RICER).


  • Rest – Resting helps to prevent further damage and injury to the affected joint. Avoid any activity that may cause further pain put weight on the affected joint.

  • Ice – Cold will help reduce pain and swelling. Apply a cold pack right away for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day to prevent or minimize swelling. Wrap a towel over the cold pack before applying on the skin.

  • Compression – Wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage will help decrease swelling. Avoid wrapping too tightly as this can cause more swelling below the affected area. If you experience numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness or more swelling, loosen up the bandage.

  • Elevation – Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows to help minimize swelling.

  • Referral – The injured person should be referred to a healthcare professional for an assessment of the injury and to ensure a full recovery.


2. Topical Creams

Topical pain-relieving creams containing capsaicin may help to relieve joint pain. The substance found in chili peppers acts as a counterirritant that desensitises the pain receptors, blocking pain signals to the brain.⁹ However, it may cause some burning and stinging sensation at the area of application. Another option for topical creams is methyl salicylate.


3. Medication

An inexpensive and relatively safe medication that is commonly used is paracetamol, commonly known as ‘Panadol’ or ‘Tylenol’. If paracetamol fails to control symptoms, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen is recommended but it comes with various side effects.² Some patients may also opt for steroid injections into the joints for longer-lasting pain relief up to roughly 3 months.²


References

  1. Thomas KS, Muir KR, Doherty M, Jones AC, O’Reilly SC, Bassey EJ. Home based exercise programme for knee pain and knee osteoarthritis: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2002;325(7367):752

  2. Sinusas K. Osteoarthritis: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jan 1;85(1):49-56

  3. Manek NJ, Lane NE. Osteoarthritis: current concepts in diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Mar 15;61(6):1795-804

  4. Sprouse RA, McLaughlin AM, Harris GD. Braces and Splints for Common Musculoskeletal Conditions. Am Fam Physician. 2018 Nov 15;98(10):570-576

  5. Sengupta K, Krishnaraju AV, Vishal AA, et al. Comparative efficacy and tolerability of 5-Loxin and Aflapin against osteoarthritis of the knee: a double blind, randomized, placebo controlled clinical study. Int J Med Sci. 2010;7(6):366-377.

  6. Haroyan A, Mukuchyan V, Mkrtchyan N, Minasyan N, Gasparyan S, Sargsyan A, Narimanyan M, Hovhannisyan A. Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteoarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018 Jan 9;18(1):7

  7. Physical Therapy for Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Available from: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/physical-therapies/physical-therapy-for-arthritis

  8. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE). Michigan Medicine. Available from: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tw4354spec

  9. Anand P and Bley K. Topical capsaicin for pain management: therapeutic potential and mechanisms of action of the new high-concentration capsaicin 8% patch. British Journal of Anaesthesia. Oct 2011; 107(4): 490–502

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational or educational purposes only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. The disclaimer also provides that no warranties are given in relation to the medical information supplied in the article, and that no liability will accrue to Miraco Nutripharm Pte Ltd or any affiliated authors in the event that a user suffers any loss as a result of reliance upon the information.



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