Arthritis PainPage 3 of 4
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Who Can Treat Arthritis Pain?
A number of different specialists may be involved in the care
of a patient with arthritis--often a team approach is used. The team
may include doctors who treat people with arthritis (rheumatologists),
surgeons (orthopaedists), and physical and occupational therapists.
Their goal is to treat all aspects of arthritis pain and help you learn
to manage your pain. The physician, other health care professionals,
and you, the patient, all play an active role in the management of arthritis
How Is Arthritis Pain Treated?
There is no single treatment that applies to everyone with arthritis,
but rather the doctor will develop a management plan designed to minimize
your specific pain and improve the function of your joints. A number
of treatments can provide short-term pain relief.
- Medications--Because people with osteoarthritis have very little
inflammation, pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol*) may be
effective. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis generally have pain caused by
inflammation and often benefit from aspirin or other nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).
- Heat and cold--The decision to use either heat or cold for
arthritis pain depends on the type of arthritis and should be discussed with
your doctor or physical therapist. Moist heat, such as a warm bath or shower,
or dry heat, such as a heating pad, placed on the painful area of the joint
for about 15 minutes may relieve the pain. An ice pack (or a bag of frozen
vegetables) wrapped in a towel and placed on the sore area for about 15
minutes may help to reduce swelling and stop the pain. If you have poor
circulation, do not use cold packs.
- Joint protection--Using a splint or a brace to allow joints to rest
and protect them from injury can be helpful. Your physician or physical
therapist can make recommendations.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)--A small TENS
device that directs mild electric pulses to nerve endings that lie beneath the
skin in the painful area may relieve some arthritis pain. TENS seems to work
by blocking pain messages to the brain and by modifying pain
- Massage--In this pain-relief approach, a massage therapist will
lightly stroke and/or knead the painful muscle. This may increase blood flow
and bring warmth to a stressed area. However, arthritis-stressed joints are
very sensitive, so the therapist must be familiar with the problems of the
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are chronic diseases that
may last a lifetime. Learning how to manage your pain over the long
term is an important factor in controlling the disease and maintaining
a good quality of life. Following are some sources of long-term pain
* Brand names included in this booklet are provided as examples
only and their inclusion does not mean that these products are endorsed
by the National Institutes of Health or any other Government agency.
Also, if a particular brand name is not mentioned, this does not mean
or imply that the product is unsatisfactory.
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