In a recent survey on pain conducted by the Stanford University Medical Center, arthritis pain was cited as the chief complaint among America's seniors, with thirty-two percent of the senior population listing arthritis as the specific cause of their suffering. Arthritis does strike children and young adults as well, although it afflicts the mature segment of the population more frequently. It is estimated that 15% of the American adult population suffer from arthritis, and this number is rising, increasing the demand for arthritis pain relief.
Arthritis is a general term encompassing over 100 different medical conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, the three most common being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. It causes inflammation in the joints, tendons and ligaments. It manifests in every part of the body, ranging from mild joint stiffness to crippling disability.
Sufferers experience the pain of arthritis differently, too; for some, arthritis is at it is most severe upon waking up, while others report that their condition worsens throughout the day. No one knows exactly what causes arthritis, but it is among the oldest of human afflictions.
The type of arthritis and intensity of the condition determine the course of treatment. There is no cure for arthritis, but there are traditional and alternative treatments that can bring arthritis pain relief. Prescription and over-the-counter medications are popular for treating arthritis pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is often recommended for osteoarthritis patients with little or mild inflammation, while aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen work best for patients with inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis.
The healing touch of massage may stimulate the flow of blood, bringing heat and relief to stiff joints. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, relaxation, yoga, and even emu oil are have proven effective for many arthritis sufferers.
Heat and cold can help alleviate pain too, but since moist heat, such as that from a bath, acts differently than the dry heat of a heating pad or the cold of an ice pack, this type of treatment needs to be discussed with a doctor or physical therapist. Doctors also often recommend patients wear splints or braces to relieve joint pressure and protect them from further injury.
Another technique, called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), works by blocking nerve endings from sending pain messages to the brain, so that the pain is never felt! A small TENS device sends mild electrical pulses to the nerve endings of the painful area, which seem to 'scramble' their message to the brain.
Medications top the list for long-term arthritis pain relief, and include several families of prescription drugs. Weight reduction, exercise, and stretching can all go a long way toward reducing stress on joints.
Surgery may be necessary for patients with severe arthritis. The operation may realign the joint or replace the damaged joint with an artificial one. Total joint replacement has resulted in dramatic arthritis pain relief and improved range of motion for many patients.
The most difficult but often the most effective pain reliever is establishing a healthy lifestyle - eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep at night, and daily exercise. All of these help ease the pain of chronic arthritis. Support groups, a good physician, and making the effort to stay informed about arthritis treatment often benefits of patients suffering from arthritis as well.