9 Ways To Reduce Your Arthritis Pain

A woman in a bowling league shirt rubbing her wrists at a bowling alley.(BlackDoctor.org) — The chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis can have a major impact on daily activities. People experience inflammation and swelling that causes joint pain and stiffness, making it hard for them to move around, grip objects firmly, and perform many other everyday tasks.

So how can you get some relief?

Rheumatoid Arthritis 101

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system begins to attack the synovium, a thin layer of soft tissue inside joints that provides cushioning and lubrication. As the synovium degrades, joints begin to swell and lose their flexibility. People most often need rheumatoid arthritis pain relief for joints in the hand, spine, hips, knees, and wrists.

When thinking about rheumatoid arthritis pain relief, it’s helpful to break the pain down into three different classifications, says Nortin M. Hadler, MD, professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and attending rheumatologist at UNC Hospitals. These categories include:

• Joint pain. “It runs in a range from mild to quite severe, almost always is waxing and waning, and always tends to be what we consider the biggest problem,” Dr. Hadler says.

• Joint stiffness. As the disease progresses, you may begin to lose flexibility in the affected joints, and the more flexibility you lose, the more the joints hurt, says Hadler.

• Emotional pain. All this pain and stiffness can begin to take an emotional toll on you. “It can be the dominant hallmark of the illness,” Hadler says. “It’s a consequence of the compromise in personal effectiveness — as in ‘who am I and how do other people perceive me and what can I accomplish?’ For many people with the disease, it’s this emotional component that’s overwhelming.”

Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Relief

To help manage all the types of pain that accompany rheumatoid arthritis:

• Medication. There is a wide range of medication available to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Some agents, like over-the-counter NSAIDs and prescription corticosteroids, help relieve pain by reducing inflammation. Anti-rheumatic drugs like methotrexate treat the disease itself.

• Diet. Losing weight by eating a balanced diet can reduce stress and strain on your joints. Some early research suggests that increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish or taking supplements may help reduce joint inflammation. On the other hand, limiting your consumption of red meat and saturated fats could help because they contain arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that promotes inflammation.

• Heat and cold therapy. Applying cold packs or ice bags to an aching joint can numb the pain and reduce inflammation and is particularly useful during an arthritis flare-up. Heat therapy through the use of heating pads, warm baths, or other methods can help relax muscles and stimulate blood flow in the area of the joint.

• Massage. Hands-on therapy can bring great relief to muscles and joints, helping to relax and warm muscles that have become tense through chronic pain. Massage can also promote the release of endorphins, naturally produced hormones that act as painkillers. You can try self-massage or visit a licensed massage therapist to help soothe your aches and pains.

• Exercise. It is essential to stay fit, as strong muscles can better support joints racked by arthritis pain. “Most joints rely on muscle,” Hadler says. “Part and parcel of joint inflammation is that the muscles around the joint get weaker, and then the joint is less effective.” Exercise can also improve flexibility and reduce symptoms of pain. Talk with your doctor about good forms of exercise for your particular arthritis symptoms. Non-impact exercises like water aerobics are often best.

• Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can help you avoid pain by coming up with alternative ways to perform household and work tasks that reduce the stress placed on your joints. These can include custom splints that help support particular joints or tools to ease tasks like opening jars.

• Counseling & Meditation. Seeing a therapist can help you deal with issues like depression and anxiety that may stem from your arthritis pain. A therapist also can coach you in coping skills that will allow you to better deal with pain from arthritis flare-ups. Also, meditation can shift your attention away from your pain by helping you relax and focus on more pleasant things.

• Music therapy. Listening to calming or soothing music has been shown to help relieve chronic pain and stress. Choose the music yourself or consult with a credentialed music therapist.

• Support groups. It’s easy to become something of a hermit when dealing with chronic arthritis pain, as you don’t want to move around too much. Joining a support group can keep you from feeling isolated and lonely. Members of the group can also provide tips on managing pain based on what’s worked for them.

The pain of rheumatoid arthritis can lead to frustration, but these coping methods can minimize its effects on your daily routine.

8 Tricks For Instant Energy

A woman in shorts running outside with the sun in the distanceWhen you’re most vulnerable to fatigue and stress, you need a foolproof plan to help you fight it. These eight tricks for instant energy will ensure that you will wake up refreshed and recharged, remain alert throughout the day, and wind down just in time for a good night’s sleep.

1. Wake Up

Don’t: Sleep in
Do: Get up at the same time and bath yourself in light

This enables your circadian rhythms, which are governed by your body’s “master clock” in the hypothalamus gland, to stay in synch with the 24-hour day. In the absence of light, your body’s sleep-wake cycle wants to delay by an average of 12 minutes every day and work on a 24.2-hour rhythm.

“That means your body wants to keep pushing your bedtime to later,” says Mariana Figueiro, PhD, program director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center. “But if you let that happen and still have to get up at the same time every day, you’re going to be tired.”

To keep your circadian rhythms in time, aim for 30 minutes of light as early as possible every morning, even on a Saturday, by enjoying a half-hour stroll outdoors or having your breakfast by a sunny window. If your schedule forces you to wake up while it’s still dark outside, crank up the indoor lights – every little bit may help.

2. Eat

Don’t: Load up on carbs
Do: Eat more protein

Although carbs can give you a burst of rapid fuel, they can also be an energy drain if you consume too many. Nutrition experts at the University of Illinois reported in a recent study that people who reduced the amount of carbohydrates in their diets and raised the amount of protein reported feeling more energetic.

Keep your daily intake of healthy carbs below 150 g: five servings of vegetables; two servings of fruit; and three or four servings of starchy (preferably whole grain) carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, and cereal. For instance:

3. Drink Coffee

Don’t: Downing several cups first thing in the morning
Do: Save a cup for later in the day

You don’t just need it in the morning. Caffeine keeps you operating at a high level by blocking the effects of adenosine, a sleep-inducing brain chemical that accumulates as the day wears on. By the time adenosine builds up to the point where you start feeling sleepy—generally, late in the afternoon—the effects of your morning caffeine will have worn off, says James K. Wyatt, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center. “Having 1/2 to 1 cup of coffee or its caffeine equivalent during the late afternoon, when the pressure to sleep is high, will keep you energized,” he says.

4. Time Your Meals

Don’t: Graze all day long
Do: Eat your meals at the same time every day

Your body’s caloric needs are closely tied to its other daily rhythms, including when you get up and go to bed and when you expend the most energy (during your late-day fitness walk, for example). “What will make you tired is if your body expects a 7 a.m. breakfast and a 12 p.m. lunch and you skip one of those,” says Layman. “Chaotic eating leads to greater hunger and overeating.”

Prepare breakfast the night before so you’re sure to start the day with a boost even if you’re running late. Pack a lunch to take to work in case you can’t get away from your desk midday. On the weekend, make and freeze several meals that you can quickly heat up so you and your family eat dinner at the same time every night.

5. Relieve Your Stress

Don’t: Meditate once for 20 minutes
Do: Meditate for shorter, more frequent sessions

“Even in the span of 3 minutes, meditation can decrease the stress hormones that tense your muscles and constrict your blood vessels,” says Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist at UCLA and author of Positive Energy. “It increases endorphins too.” Quick time-outs throughout your workday are also easier to fit into a busy schedule than a longer one at day’s end.

Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. (“In a busy office, that may even mean going into the bathroom,” says Orloff.) Sit down and close your eyes. Listen to your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale, and when thoughts intrude, imagine that they’re like clouds floating by in the sky. Then visualize something or someone who makes you happy. It could be someplace you’ve been on vacation, someone you love, or something you love doing (like lounging in a fragrant bath).

6. Revitalize your day

Don’t: Take a power nap
Do: Walk outdoors

Just as it does in the early morning, enjoying some daylight later in the day may blunt an afternoon energy dip, which often comes on like clockwork. “Because of the way the homeostatic and circadian systems interact, most people feel a lull 17 to 18 hours after they went to bed the previous night,” says Figueiro. Step outside into revitalizing sunlight for a short walk. Vary your routine by taking a different path every day, doing a short errand, or catching up with a friend on your cell phone. If you can’t get outside, plant yourself next to a window, open the shades wide, and look out.

7. Give yourself a pre-workout

Don’t: Eat a snack (unless you’re hungry, of course)
Do: Listen To Music

Exercise is a prime energy booster, but what if you’re too tired? Put in your earphones while you lace up your walking shoes: Music will help you forget you’re whipped. Volunteers who worked out for 30 minutes while listening to tunes felt they weren’t exerting themselves as much as when they exercised without music. So listen to some of your favorite up-tempo tunes on your way to the gym.