Tips for Tackling Joint Pain

Left untreated, painful knees and hips become the decision makers in your daily life. Here are some non-surgical treatments that can provide temporary relief to pain and increase your mobility.

Painful knees and hips are powerful. Left untreated, they can become the decision makers in your daily life. You might ask yourself: Should I visit my friend who has stairs to her front door? Should I try shopping with my daughter at the mall? Should I take the bike out? Should I work in the garden or just stay inside?

There non-surgical treatments can provide temporary relief to pain and increase your mobility:

Heat and Ice

  • Heat increases circulation to the area, promotes relaxation, helps muscles and joints to stretch and decreases aches in your joints and muscles.
  • Ice decreases swelling and pain, acts as a local anti-inflammatory and improves your ability to tolerate physical activity.

Braces and other Self-Help Devices

  • A knee brace can reduce painful instability. Special knee braces called “uploaders” can reduce stress on the knee joint.
  • Canes reduce stress across the joint and should be used in the hand opposite the affected joint.
  • Walkers and crutches are good choices if you are unsteady with a cane or cannot grip it well. They also provide support and balance.

Nutritional Supplements

  • Glucosamine can be an effective pain reliever and may be useful in strengthening and rebuilding cartilage.
  • Chrondroitin sulfate is commonly taken with glucosamine. It makes cartilage more elastic and spongy and may help to prevent the breakdown of cartilage.

Note, while both of these supplements may be helpful, they cannot “cure” arthritis or rebuild cartilage.

Over-the-Counter Medications

  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol)
  • Aspirin
  • Creams/ointments
  • NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naproxen, are effective in reducing swelling. (Note: these may cause stomach or blood side effects. Ask your doctor before taking NSAIDs regularly.)

Injections

  • Hyaluronate (a naturally occurring substance in cartilage) can relieve pain, restore function, provide lubrication to cartilage and provide relief for 6 to 12 months. It does not cure arthritis.
  • Cortisone (a naturally occurring hormone) relieves pain and reduces swelling. Note, long-term use may injure cartilage.

If you’ve tried all or most of these approaches and haven’t achieved lasting pain relief, it may be time to time to ask your primary care provider to recommend an orthopaedic surgeon. Your surgeon can explain the joint replacement options that may be most beneficial for you. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask questions so you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you.

Still not sure if it’s time to consider surgery? Take this simple quiz.

Unexplained shortness of breath, panting or the inability to take a deep breath may be warning signs of a heart attack, with or without chest pain. Call 911 if you experience these symptoms.