Joint Pain: What are the Treatment Options?

Joints in the body do more than just form the connections between bones.

They also provide support and make movement possible.

Any damage to the joints secondary to injury or movement will not only cause pain but will also interfere with movement.

Pain in the joints can be attributed to numerous causes including rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, sprains, osteoarthritis, and injuries, among other things.

Joint pain is very common.

While it can affect any part of the body, it often occurs in the knees, followed by the shoulder and the hips.

Pain in the joints becomes more prevalent with age.

Joint pain can be mildly irritating to downright debilitating.

Some can go away after a few weeks (acute) or can persist for several weeks or months (chronic).

Unfortunately, short-term swelling and pain can already affect the individual’s quality of life.

Treatment options for joint pain includes physical therapy, alternative treatments, and medication.

The primary goals of joint pain treatment include reducing inflammation and pain and preserving joint function.

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Medications

For pain in the joint that is moderate to severe, prescription or over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, naproxen sodium, and ibuprofen are often prescribed.

For mild pain without any swelling, acetaminophen is considered effective.

However, if the pain is so severe and does not respond to NSAIDs, a stronger opioid medication might be recommended.

However, while taking OTC medications is an option, seeking immediate medical attention is considered a must when the joint becomes deformed or inflamed, when the pain gets very intense, and when using the joint becomes impossible.

Other medications that can help minimize joint pain include:

  • Antiepileptic and antidepressant drugs (works by interfering with pain signals)
  • Muscle relaxants (treats muscle spasms and is often used together with NSAIDs for more effective pain relief)

Topical Agents

A substance present in chili peppers known as capsaicin has been known to relieve joint pain secondary to arthritis and other conditions.

Capsaicin works by blocking substance P (substance that helps transmit the pain signals) and trigger the release of endorphins in the body.

Topical creams that contain methyl salicylate (Ben Gay) have also been proven effective.

Injections

If oral or topical medications does not provide any relief, injecting a steroid medication into the joint every 3 to 4 months might be suggested.

Steroid injections are often recommended for patients with joint disease, arthritis, and tendinitis.

While considered effective, this treatment option only provides temporary relief.

Physical Therapy

To improve the range of motion, stabilize the joint, and strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint, physical therapy is necessary.

A physical therapist will employ several techniques like heat or cold therapy, electric nerve stimulation, ultrasound, and manipulation.

For those who are carrying excess weight, losing the extra pounds can do wonders as it can help take some pressure off the joints.

Exercise would be an effective way to lose weight.

However, it is advisable to stick only to low-impact exercises—swimming, bicycling, etc.—so irritating the joint further is avoided.

Home Care

Management of short-term joint pain at home can be done using the PRICE method.

  • Protecting the joint using a wrap or a brace.
  • Resting the joint and avoiding activities that may cause pain.
  • Icing the joint several times a day (15 minutes each time).
  • Compressing the joint utilizing an elastic wrap
  • Elevating the joint above the level of the heart.

Alternative Treatments

Some research show that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can help improve joint function and ease joint pain.

Both substances are components found in a normal cartilage.

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements come in liquid, capsule, tablet, or powder form.

While the supplements have not been proven to work for everyone, they are deemed safe as they have no known side effects.

George Abbot

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