Ways to cope with pain of osteoarthritis
Q: My doctor just diagnosed me with osteoarthritis. Whenever I lift something, I experience pain in my hands, knee or hip. How can I stop this pain from taking over my life?
A: It can be difficult to receive a diagnosis like this one. Osteoarthritis pain is very common and can affect your daily life. It’s caused by the wearing down of the cartilage in your joints.
Cartilage cushions your bones. When osteoarthritis decreases cartilage, bones do not have that protection, and they can grind against each other. This grinding causes pain and swelling. While there are other types of arthritis, this is the most common.
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to help decrease your pain, strengthen your bones, and stay moving so you can play with grandkids and maintain hobbies like gardening or walking. We address these in the following questions and answers:
Q: Who is most likely to get osteoarthritis? Is this something my spouse and children could have?
A: Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear to your bones’ cartilage. This comes with age, former injuries or being overweight. Having diabetes or bone deformities can increase your chances of having osteoarthritis.
It can also be more likely to happen due to genetics, so your children may experience it as they grow older.
Q: Can I do anything to ease my pain in addition to or instead of taking medication?
A: Yes, there are many things you can do!
—Apply a warm compress (such as a moist towel with hot water) to relieve pain and help your muscles relax.
—Exercise to increase your endurance and strengthen the muscles around your joints for more support. This will also make your joints more stable.
—Lose weight to relieve the pressure on and potential stress surrounding your joints.
—Try movement therapies (such as yoga or tai chi) to reduce overall stress and improve flexibility.
—Go to physical or occupational therapy. An expert can guide you through exercises and can assist in finding ways to complete daily activities without placing stress on the joints.
Q: My doctor said there were over-the-counter medications for me to take for pain of arthritis. What do you recommend?
A: There are multiple medications that can help relieve your pain. Below are a few, a description of how they are taken, and some reasons you might not choose to take the medication. This is not a complete list, so please check product labels and verify with your doctor.
Advil (ibuprofen) tablets: Take one tablet every four to six hours when experiencing pain. This may not be the best option if you take blood thinners, blood pressure medication, or have renal disease.
Aleve (naproxen) tablets: Take one tablet every eight to 12 hours while symptoms last. This may not be the best option if you take blood thinners or blood pressure medication, or have renal disease.
Tylenol 8-Hour Arthritis Pain (acetaminophen): Take two caplets every eight hours with water. This may not be the best option if you have liver concerns.
Voltaren Gel (diclofenac sodium gel): Use the provided dosing card and apply 2.25 inches to the upper body and 4.5 inches to the lower body. This may not be the best option if you have any skin conditions.
As always, please check with your provider to determine whether any particular medication is safe for you. Additionally, there are prescription medications if your provider feels those would be the best way to treat your osteoarthritis.
Jewlyus Grigsby recently received his Pharm.D. from VCU School of Pharmacy. He completed his Bachelor of Science in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University. He hopes to pursue a career in ambulatory care and academia with a college of pharmacy.