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4 things to know about pain management

Pain is one of the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis, and one of the most debilitating. It’s hard to enjoy life and be active when you’re in pain, which is why it’s so crucial to find ways to manage it. 

Where does the pain come from? 

In osteoarthritis, pain and limited mobility occur when cartilage that cushions the space between bones wears away with age and overuse. This leaves the bones to rub painfully against each other. 

The severity and quality of pain can vary dramatically from person to person. For example, some people may feel a shooting pain, or dull pain, while others may feel a radiating pain. 

What can you do about it? 

If you have joint pain or stiffness that won’t go away, the first step is to talk to your healthcare provider. 

Treatments for osteoarthritis pain often include pain medications—mostly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also known as NSAIDs (like Advil), and acetaminophen (like Tylenol). Surgery can also sometimes be an option, like a knee replacement. You and your healthcare provider can discuss different treatment options that make sense for you.

However, lifestyle changes like being more active, losing weight, and focusing on nutrition, can also help pain relief and osteoarthritis, especially in the long-term. 

There are plenty of non-pharmacological (without pain medications), research-backed ways to relieve and manage joint pain. You can try all of these at home. 

1. Physical activity

Whether it’s swimming, walking, seated yoga, gardening, physical activity can: 

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve range of motion
  • Strengthen the muscles that support the joints
  • Help with weight loss, which can reduce the strain on your joints

The most important thing is to find activities that you enjoy doing and get moving! We recommend trying a Bold class to get started.

2. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Research shows that regular mindfulness practice reduces a person’s pain experience. For a good place to start, check out a Bold meditation class.

3. Heat and cold

Applying heat, cold, or alternating heat and cold can be very effective for relieving pain and inflammation. Try applying heat—either by warm towels, hot packs, or a shower—2 to 3 times a day for about 20 to 30 minutes. Heat treatment should be warm, not too hot. For cold, try applying a cold pack to your joints for 10 to 20 minutes as needed. Do not put a cold pack directly on your skin, instead use a thin towel or pillowcase. 

4. Self-talk 

Your thoughts, the way you talk to yourself, can deeply influence your outlook on pain and experience of it. Research shows that you can learn to reframe your thoughts and think in ways that ease or lessen the painful experience. Practicing positive self-talk is a helpful tool for reminding yourself that you can control your pain.

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