How may I best manage my osteoarthritis pain?

As the disease progresses, without effective management osteoarthritis (OA) can become more painful and debilitating. Pain can impact all aspects of your life, affecting your mood, energy level, sleep, and your relationships with others. Fortunately a number of effective approaches are available to help you manage and cope with your pain. Keep in mind that our perception of and tolerance for pain varies from individual to individual. This means your pain-control management plan should be customized to address your particular needs. As with all OA treatments, it is recommended that you explore the various pain-control approaches to find the one or combination of several that work best for you.

Understanding pain: Knowing what types of activities and movements increase your pain is vital to managing it. When we feel pain we tend to reduce or avoid activity all together, however, it is important to remember that not all pain is harmful. Pain can be a normal body response to the healing process. You may find it useful to talk to a health professional if you notice you are experiencing a fear of pain that is stopping you from moving and taking part in physical activity.

Activity pacing: Spacing out activities during the day or breaking them up into smaller segments can be an effective way to manage your pain and avoid a flare up. This is especially important when you are doing physically demanding tasks or activities that you know will cause you pain.

Mind techniques: Relaxation techniques and stress management can be helpful in reducing the muscle tension and pain associated with OA. Techniques to better help you cope with your pain can also be useful. Advice from a physiotherapist or psychologist can help you learn these techniques.

Heat or cold treatments: The application of hot or cold packs can be soothing and help to relieve pain symptoms in tender joints.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation :(TENS) is a small device with electrodes that stick onto the skin. The electrodes release small signals through the skin to your nerve endings. It is thought that the electrical signals change the pain message the brain receives. You will feel a tingling sensation on the skin. Evidence on the effectiveness of TENS is varied. Most pharmacies or physiotherapists will supply TENS units for purchase or loan.

Suitable footwear: Shoes with a low heel and supportive sole are best to reduce excessive strain on the joints in your legs. Look for a good quality sports shoe or comparable footwear.

Braces and supportive devices: These may provide some benefit when worn during exercise or physical activity such as household activities. Some devices are best used for short periods of time only to avoid skin irritation. Others, such as knee sleeves, may be comfortable to wear all the time. Research has found that they do not help everyone but may be worth a try. Seek advice from a physical therapist or podiatrist.

Walking sticks or canes can be useful in reducing the pressure on your ankle, knee, and hip joints while walking. A walking stick can also improve your confidence to walk if you feel less stable walking. A note about scooters: Although useful in some instances, the downside of scooters is no exercise is required which defeats the goal of including an exercise program in your treatment plan.

Modifications to your home or workplace: Consider making changes around your house or in your workplace to lessen the effort and strain on your joints. Modifications can include using a chair in the shower, installing a rail in the toilet, and using specialized equipment such as long-handled shoe horns, modified vegetable peelers, jar and can openers, and various other grips. Speak to an occupational therapist for advice about what devices and modifications might help you and where you might obtain them.

Exercise and weight loss are also important aspects of managing your OA pain. Understanding Your Osteoarthritis