Finding the right solution to control joint pain can be an extremely difficult process. The type of medication or treatment that you should get depends on the cause and severity of the pain, as well as your lifestyle.
Whether you live with osteoarthritis, Still's disease, or suffer from mild joint pain, the effects can be devastating to live with. It can affect the quality of life if it is not treated correctly and approached with the right mindset.
Finding pain relief is the number one concern for most people who suffer from joint pain and inflammation. The good news is there are plenty of options available to you. From short-term home remedies to professional help, we are going to cover the following joint pain treatments:
- Oral, Injectable, and Topical Medications
- Diet Changes
- Home Remedies
- Nutritional Supplements
- Physical Therapy
Let's take a closer look at some of the best joint pain treatments!
There are several different medications you can take to reduce pain in your joints, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescribed. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are easy to find at any local pharmacy or grocery store.
These drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) can all give you temporary pain relief from joint or arthritis pain and reduce inflammation. However, salicylates such as aspirin can thin your blood and should be used very cautiously if you are taking other medications.
If you are experiencing joint pain without the swelling and inflammation, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be effective. You do have to be careful though, as acetaminophen medicines can cause liver damage if taken with alcohol.
If OTC options are not getting the job done for you, ask your doctor what type of prescription medicines are available to you. There are stronger prescription NSAIDs such as diclofenac (Voltaren) and celecoxib (Celebrex).
For more severe and chronic joint pain, your doctor might suggest opioid pain medications (Vicodin, codeine) or oral steroids such as prednisone or cortisone.
One other option is antidepressant medications. Not only do they interfere with pain signals, but studies have shown that depression and negative thoughts can make joint pain feel worse.
Topical medications can numb your joint pain or help reduce swelling and start the healing process. They can come in the form of creams, gels, patches, or even spray-on. For the most part, these medications use the same handful of ingredients that help reduce pain.
These common ingredients include:
- Capsaicin: Depletes a chemical in your nerve cells that is responsible for sending pain signals. Most effective if used several times per day.
- Menthol: Works as a counterirritant that makes the skin feel cool and then warm. Meant to distract you from the pain.
- Camphor: Numbs the nerve endings and produces a cool sensation.
- Lidocaine: Works by blocking nerve signals in your body responsible for transmitting pain. Works best on skin irritations like sunburn, insect bites, poison ivy, or other minor cuts, scratches or burns.
- Arnica: Mostly used for bruises, muscle soreness, and stiffness. The arnica plant (mountain daisy) has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Hemp/CBD Oil: Contain antioxidants, fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Emu Oil: High in omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. These reduce inflammation and ease muscle and joint pain. Mostly used for skin conditions or injuries but has been showing up more in arthritis and joint pain medicines.
All these ingredients can have different effects on your body. We recommend speaking with your doctor about which type of topical pain relief is best for you.
If you're not finding pain relief from oral or topical medications, your doctor may suggest injecting a steroid medication directly into the joint. This can only be done once every three to four months, but the procedure is very effective.
However, in a lot of situations, the effects can be more temporary than expected. You also have to worry about the side effects, such as the injections masking another injury or overusing the joint and causing further damage.
Some doctors are also using hyaluronan in injections for osteoarthritis pain. It is a synthetic version of the natural joint fluid.
One last option is removing fluid from the joint, which is often done in conjunction with a steroid injection.
While all these won't necessarily be free options, they are easily accessible or small changes to your lifestyle. Let's start with the most well-known solution.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Many people ask if you should be using ice or heat for joint pain. The truth is you should be using both in cohesion. Warm showers and baths are great for applying heat and reducing any stiffness in your joints. To avoid becoming too stiff overnight, purchasing a heated pad or blanket is a great alternative.
Where hot therapy helps with reducing stiffness, cold therapy helps reduce inflammation of your joints. Wrap a cold pack in a towel and apply it to your painful joints approximately 20 minutes at a time.
For the best results, we recommend doing this several times a day.
Changing your diet can make a huge impact on your joint pain. Switching to a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables could help reduce your symptoms.
Moreover, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can help reduce inflammation. Some of those foods include:
- Omega-3: Walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel.
- Antioxidants: Colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, red wine, and dark chocolate.
Additionally, you should try to cut out processed carbohydrates and saturated or trans fats.
Exercise can help your joint pain in a few ways. Light physical activity such as walking or swimming can not only help decrease pain, but it has also been shown to improve mood and quality of life.
The CDC suggests that people suffering from arthritis pain should get at least 150 minutes of "moderate-intensity physical activity" each week. You will want to avoid high-impact exercises like tennis or running.
Other low to moderate activities include tai chi, yoga, and biking.
It's important to remember that if you're overweight, you can reduce joint and arthritis pain by maintaining a healthy weight. The added weight puts extra pressure on your joints, especially in your lower body.
While there haven't been any clear findings that show dietary supplements provide relief for joint pain, there is enough evidence to show they might help.
- Fish oil has been shown to relieve tender joints and stiffness for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Ginger has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Glucosamine is a natural component of cartilage and can help prevent bones from rubbing against each other.
- Chondroitin is another building block of cartilage.
As a last resort, some people with severe joint and arthritis pain can seek options for surgery. It is usually reserved for patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis. Some more severe cases might require a total joint replacement.
If it is less severe, a doctor might suggest that you undergo an osteotomy. This surgery involves cutting and reshaping bones to help alleviate joint pain.
If you're still seeking professional help but don't want to commit to surgery, physical therapy is a great place to start. It can improve your range of motion and will help strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint.
Your physical therapist will help customize strengthening and stretching exercises that you can then incorporate into your daily routine. They also might recommend wearing a type of brace or sleeve that can help alleviate some of the pain.
From medications and remedies to procedures, there are plenty of options to help relieve your joint and arthritis pain. Understanding the cause of your pain is vital in finding the best solution.
If you've been experiencing joint pain for a prolonged period and haven't seen a doctor, we recommend doing so ASAP. The CDC has stated that people with arthritis have a better quality of life when they get an early diagnosis.