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Managing Arthritis Pain & Symptoms
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Managing Arthritis Pain & Symptoms

May 22, 2015

Chronic pain is a health issue that affects many older adults.  If your senior loved one is dealing with joint pain as a result of arthritis, there are ways to help them feel better, stay active, and ensure that they can continue to enjoy activities at their retirement or senior living community.

Arthritis causes trouble moving around, pain, and swelling in one or more joints.  Surprisingly, arthritis is not a single disease: it refers to over 100 medical conditions, known collectively as rheumatic diseases.  Osteoarthritis is most common form of arthritis among seniors and affects over 27 million Americans.

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, making it a great time to learn more about the disease, the causes of arthritis pain, and how to manage arthritis symptoms so your loved one can live a healthy, active, and independent lifestyle.

arthritis word collage
What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Arthritis pain can be caused by a number of factors including inflammation, redness, and swelling in the joints as well as damage to tissues, muscle strain, and fatigue.  If your loved one has been diagnosed with arthritis, their pain may develop slowly and worsen over time.  They may complain of tenderness when pressure is applied to a joint, typically in the hands, fingers, arms, hips, knees, or legs. Symptoms are usually worse in the morning and stiffness can last for 30 minutes after waking up. Discomfort and fatigue are common factors of managing arthritis pain.

Managing arthritis through physical activity

If your loved one suffers from arthritis, it does not mean they have to give up having an active lifestyle. In fact, staying in motion can help mitigate and relieve inflammation.  Many doctors and rheumatologists point to the benefits of exercise for alleviating stiffness, improving joint mobility and flexibility, reducing fatigue, and strengthening bones.

A fitness program for managing arthritis pain with exercise could include low-impact physical activity such as walking, biking, and balance exercises. This can improve mood, function, and quality of life for seniors with arthritis. Range-of-motion exercises, aerobic exercise, resistance training, and gentle forms of movement like tai chi and yoga are all effective for managing arthritis pain.

What are other benefits of physical activity for adults with joint pain?  Following a light-intensity physical vitality program can give seniors more energy throughout the day, aid in a restful sleep, and help with weight control. Your doctor or a physical therapist can provide guidance on how to safely integrate exercise into your loved one’s current treatment plan.

Medications to help arthritis pain

There are a variety of pharmaceutical treatments available to manage arthritis pain, both prescription and over-the-counter.  For minor discomfort and swelling, pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may help.  Topical creams that contain active ingredients like menthol (Bengay, Stopain) or capsaicin (Capzasin, Zostrix) can be applied directly to painful areas.  Prescription painkillers, including Celebrex, may be necessary if arthritis symptoms are severe. Heating pads or icing may also help relieve arthritis pain.  Before beginning a medication regime, first consult your doctor to understand your options and discover what’s right for you.

Protecting the joints through diet

Preserving joint health is a key step in managing arthritis pain and can begin with losing weight.  In addition to improving a senior’s your overall health, weight loss helps lessen arthritis pain by reducing the stress placed on the joints and protects against future injury.  Research shows that losing as little as 10 pounds relieves 40 pounds of pressure from the knees and cuts osteoarthritis risk in half.

Following an arthritis diet does not mean your loved one has to give up his or her love for the culinary delights of exotic locations.  A Mediterranean or “anti-inflammatory diet” filled with vitamin-packed foods, including fish, nuts, legumes, fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables can aid in weight control, heart health, and contribute to bone strength.

Assistive devices for managing pain

Supportive devices such as splints, braces, and shoe inserts can provide support to weakened joints and minimize trauma.  If your loved one has trouble getting around, a cane or walker can help them perform daily tasks. There are also a number of handy devices invented specifically for people with arthritis so they can get back to their everyday lives without worrying about discomfort.  These include dressing aids, automatic kitchen tools, and enhanced doorknobs.

Arthritis pain is not something seniors should have to “grin and bear”.  Pain does not have to be part of every day life.  By taking action to reduce arthritis symptoms, your loved one can find easy ways to maintain their personal freedom and live a healthy, active lifestyle.


Find out how Elmcroft helps seniors stay active with our Walking Tall Program.

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