Persons living with arthritis or a related condition often live with pain which is one of the hardest factors experienced with the disease. In order to know how to combat the pain you must learn to manage the disease. The first consideration to determine is which type of arthritis the patient has. Knowing the particular arthritis will help to determine the patient’s treatment. Before you begin to develop a treatment plan, you must understand some concepts regarding pain.
Not all pain is alike
Pain experienced by arthritis patients is not always the same. There are many different types of pain just as there are many different types of arthritis and not all patients will respond the same to treatment. It may be necessary to try several different treatments before finding one that works for the patient.
Why pain occurs… Pain occurs because it is telling us that something is wrong. When an injury is experienced, nerves in the area where the injury originated release chemical signals and other nerves transmit the signals to the brain. Pain is a sign that something is wrong and you need to act. For example, if you touch a hot plate, your brain immediately receives the signals and forces you to let go of the plate. This form of pain is a protection that helps keep you safe.
Long-lasting pain, such as that experienced with conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis is a different type of pain. While the pain is alerting the body that something is wrong, it is not as easy to relieve the pain. This type of pain can be debilitating to the patient and must be managed to enhance the patient’s sense of well-being and quality of life.
What controls pain? The brain and spinal cord includes a system of nerves in which pain signals travel through. The body often tries to intercept these signals to stop them. This is done by creating chemicals that interfere or block the signals. These chemicals are termed endorphins, and are morphine-like substances, killing the pain and decreasing the pain sensation.
What causes pain in arthritis? There are many factors that cause pain with arthritis which include:
Inflammation: Is the process that is responsible for causing swelling and redness in the joints of the patient.
Injury to joint tissues: This is a result of pressure, injury, stress or the disease process on the joints of the patient.
Body fatigue: Is a result of the disease process, which can make the pain intensified and more difficult to handle.
Mental depression or stress: Arthritis patients often have limited movement and are no longer able to enjoy various activities making depression a serious factor in the disease. The patient can become wrapped up in a vicious circle of pain, stress, depression and a limited or loss of abilities making the management of pain more difficult.
What increases the pain associated with arthritis? • Depression • Anxiety • Fatigue • Focusing on pain • Overdoing physical activity • Stress • Increased disease activity
What reduces the pain associated with arthritis?
• Cold and heat treatments • Humor • Topical pain relievers • Distraction • Massage • Medications • Relaxation • Appropriate exercise • Positive attitude and pleasant thoughts
How to control arthritis pain at home
Thermotherapy (Temperature therapy) Stiffness and pain of arthritis can be reduced by using heat and cold treatments. Placing cold pack on the affected area will help to numb the area and to reduce the swelling and inflammation. Cold packs are particularly useful for joint pain due to a flare up. With heat, muscles relax and stimulate the blood circulation. Heating lamps and heating pads are forms of dry heat; where as, baths and heated wash cloths are forms of moist heat. Both of which are useful.
Sleep therapy When our bodies sleep, they are restoring energy. With arthritis patients this helps to manage the pain. Sleep therapy also helps to reduce the pressure on the joints and helps to decrease swelling and pain. The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you feel sleepy at various times throughout the day, take a brief nap. If you have trouble sleeping through the night, then avoid the nap and relax quietly during the day.
Massage therapy Massaging your muscles brings relief to the painful area. Massage therapy can be done by yourself or a profession. If you are massaging yourself then:
• Stop if you begin to experience pain • Don’t massage joints that are extremely painful or swollen • Use oil or lotion to help the massaging technique
Relaxation therapy Relaxation therapy does help to reverse the pain associated with arthritis and allows the patient to have a sense of well-being and control their life. It is vital that the patient learn ways to control and calm the mind and body. There are various methods that are used to help patients relax such as:
Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a deep relaxation technique which is intended to help the patient release themselves from their anxieties and thoughts. The technique is pleasant and soothing and effective in relieving pain.
Guided imagery: This technique utilizes pleasant images which the mind focuses on to help guide away from the pain. Prayer is very relaxing and comforting for some people.
Herbal therapy: The herbal supplements works by removing the primary cause of the pain, which with arthritis inflammation and stiffness, and helps to ease the arthritis symptoms.