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Managing pain

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Pain is one of the commonest symptoms of arthritis. Experience of pain is unique to each individual, so everyone will find their own ways to manage it. There are many ways in which pain can be controlled – some of which are available on prescription – but many techniques do not require a doctor’s signature.

Arthritis is painful because inflammation in the joints causes swelling and produces heat, which leads to pain.

Pain induces stress, which causes the muscles around the joint to tense to protect the joint, which can lead to further pain. This is why relaxation is such an important tool in pain management. Unfortunately, relaxation is often the last thing on your mind when you are in pain, but with practice it can get easier.

Fatigue is also very common for people with arthritis, and it can make dealing with pain much harder. Pain + tiredness = frustration, stress and sometimes depression.

Most people with arthritis will be prescribed some kind of pain relieving or disease controlling drug. These include:

  • painkillers (analgesics) in the form of tablets or gels
  • steroids to reduce inflammation
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation
  • narcotics for severe pain
  • disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to slow down the progress of arthritis
  • biologics like anti-TNFs to target specific parts of the immune system that cause inflammation

Read more about medication for arthritis here. 

Arthritis Care’s self-management courses and booklet Coping with Pain offers lots of information and tips on how you can manage your pain.

Poll Question

Which of the following do you use regularly to manage the pain of your arthritis?

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