Take control of arthritis pain

Take Control of Pain | Advice for Relief of Chronic Pain

If you have been told that you have arthritis and want to know exactly what this means for you, this article will explain the most common types of arthritis.

I will also explain some scientifically proven arthritis pain relief medications and treatments that will help you take control of arthritis pain.

arthritis pain

      There are two types of arthritis and this can be confusing for most people. You may have been told you have arthritis but are not sure which one your doctor is talking about. The word arthritis comes from the Greek ‘arthron’ meaning joint and ‘-itis’ meaning inflammation, so arthritis = joint inflammation.


    Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis; it affects around 8 million people in the UK and 27 million people in the US.  In osteoarthritis (or OA for short) all of the tissues which surround a joint are broken down over time, which unfortunately is a normal part of the aging process. This basically means there is less cushioning between the bones so they rub together causing pain, stiffness and swelling. Most commonly affected joints are the spine, knees, hips and hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than OA; it affects around 400,000 people in the UK and 1.5 million in the US. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it is inflammation of the tissues surrounding the joint that causes the pain, stiffness and swelling. This is thought to be due to a faulty immune response, meaning the immune system is attacking the body’s own tissues. This can happen at any age and usually affects more than one joint at a time.

Symptoms of arthritis

    Both types of arthritis have common symptoms, so it is important that you get an accurate diagnosis to make sure you receive the correct treatment.
  • Joint pain and stiffness, especially after you wake up.
  • Joint swelling and warm red skin around the joint.
  • Restricted movement of the joint.

Treatments for arthritis

    Unfortunately there is no cure for arthritis; however you can take steps to prevent the condition worsening over time. You can also take medications to help relieve the symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

    Whatever type of arthritis you suffer with, it is important that you make some small changes to your daily routine to ensure that your body can cope with the problems. It may sound obvious but, diet and exercise are very important to living well with arthritis.

    A healthy, balanced diet will help you to lose some weight. If you can lose some weight then the pressure on your joints will be reduced and they will become less painful. This sounds simple, but of course losing weight can be difficult. It is hard to change your eating habits; this is because they have been learned over your whole lifetime.

    It is possible to learn new habits; you just have to remind yourself that you are doing it for your own good! Reduce portion sizes a little; avoid high sugar fizzy drinks; and no snacks after your evening meal. Stick to this and you will lose weight. It takes time, 3-6 months, but it works.

    Regular exercise is also really important to reducing the pain of arthritis. I’m not taking about going to the gym or the track here, just 20-30 mins light exercise such as walking or housework EVERY DAY will be enough. It may be painful but, if you do nothing I guarantee the pain will get a lot worse. This is because your muscles and tendons will become stiff and weak through lack of use. Then just doing normal activity will become painful, and this can become a vicious circle of pain and under-activity.

    If you have rheumatoid arthritis your doctor will also prescribe some anti-rheumatic medications to help stop the condition from worsening. These drugs will do nothing for osteoarthritis, and unfortunately there are no drugs which can stop osteoarthritis. Fortunately, diet and exercise have been proven to slow the progress of osteoarthritis. So start today.

Arthritis pain relief

    To get relief from the pain you should consider taking some pain killers. These may not get rid of the pain completely, but they should reduce it to a manageable level. It is important that you take the right type of pain medication, which will depend on the symptoms you are experiencing.

    If you have osteoarthritis, and there is no inflammation (swelling, redness) around the joint, then you should start by taking paracetamol (acetaminophen). Read the label and take the maximum recommended dose (usually 1000mg every 4-6 hrs but please check the label first to be sure).

    Paracetamol has been shown to be the most effective over-the-counter (no prescription needed) pain killer for most people suffering with arthritis pain. It is quite safe at the recommended dose, and also very cheap.

    If you have inflamed joints, more common with rheumatoid arthritis, then you will benefit more by taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller such as ibuprofen. These types of painkillers are more effective at reducing pain caused by inflammation as they work in a slightly different way to paracetamol. Read the label and take the maximum recommended dose (usually 400mg every 4-6 hrs but please check the label).

    Ibuprofen is also quite cheap, available without prescription, and safe at the recommended dose. However, high doses of ibuprofen taken for long periods of time can increase the risk of stomach and kidney problems. So you must tell your doctor exactly how much you have been taking and how often. Your doctor can then decide if you should change to a different pain killer, or take additional medication to protect the stomach and kidney.

A general rule for all pain medication

    A general rule for all pain medication is that you take it regularly. DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE PAIN BECOMES UNBEARABLE. By taking the medication regularly you will ensure that there is always enough of the drug in your body to be effective at reducing pain. Over time the body will act to breakdown and remove the medication from your system, which means the effect will begin to wear off. Taking another dose at the right time will mean that the pain levels do not rise again.

What can I do right now?

    Think about how you can make these small changes to your lifestyle. Get a pen and paper and make a plan of how you will change your diet, and work out what time of day is best for you to do your 20 mins of activity. Good luck!


5 Ways to Beat Knee Pain

Take Control of Pain | Advice for Relief of Chronic Pain

Whether you have knee pain from arthritis, an old knee injury, or knee pain during and after exercise, help is at hand to get you moving again with the minimum of pain.

Start by following these 5 scientifically proven ways to beat knee pain.

knee pain

1. First of all, there’s no shame in going for the easy win and taking some pain killers to help you deal with the discomfort of a sore knee.

If you think the pain is due to arthritis then paracetamol (acetaminophen) is recommended. If the pain was brought on by exercise, then tissue damage and inflammation is likely involved in the pain. You should take an anti-inflammatory pain killer such as ibuprofen.

Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are cheap and widely available – you probably have both in your medicine cabinet right now – so check the recommended dose and take it.

If you need more pain relief, you can add in some codeine (a weak opioid) by taking a combination pain killer such as paracetamol + codeine (co-codamol). 9 out of 10 people should get at least 50% pain relief from taking the maximum recommended dose of co-codamol (1000mg paracetamol, 60mg codeine).

2. Don’t rely on medication alone to cure the pain.

Even though you may be getting some pain relief from the meds, the problem is never going to get better if you just take the pills and carry on as normal. I know this may be tempting. You have to get things done and you want to get on with them. But if you don’t address the cause of the problem, you will never get rid of it. The pain will only come back worse later on.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a surgeon to solve knee pain, following these simple steps will go a long way to helping you improve the state of your knees in the long term.

3. Keep moving. As they say: “Motion is Lotion”.

Sitting or lying down for long periods of time stops fluid from moving around your knee joints. Muscles and ligaments get tight from being held in one position. This is why you are getting stiffness after you wake up. Don’t make it worse for yourself by sitting down all day as well!

Try to get up and walk around for a minute or two every 20 minutes, to relieve tension on your joints and ligaments. Even if it hurts to do so, you are aiding recovery by moving. So you are better off doing it and being in pain for a minute than not doing any activity at all.

You could set an alarm to remind you. Some people find that if they drink a lot of water, they have to get up and walk to the toilet regularly, which makes sure you keep moving!

4. Stretch those knees.

Well, you actually stretch your leg muscles and tendons that attach to the knees. Stretching is great for reducing pain in your joints and muscles for two reasons.

First, you get an increase in blood flow to the area, bringing essential nutrients which replenish damaged cells, and removing harmful waste. This means you recover more quickly.

Second, stretching will increase the range of movement that a joint can perform before damage occurs. This means you are less likely to hurt the knee again in the future. Try these stretches once or twice a day:

  • Quadriceps (front of leg) stretch: Lie down on one side with your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line. Bend your top leg and hold the ankle/foot. Pull your heel towards the buttocks. You will feel a stretch on the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs. Then do the other leg (you don’t have to roll over onto your other side). If you can’t reach the ankle then loop a towel around your foot and pull up on that.
  • Hamstring (back of leg) stretch: Sit on the edge of a chair with your left leg bent. Put the right leg out in front of you with the knee slightly bent. Lean forwards (keep your back straight and your head up) until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs then swap legs. Remember to keep the knee slightly bent.
  • Iliotibial band (side of leg) stretch: Stand upright with your left hand on the back of a chair or the wall. Cross your right leg behind your left and put your right foot flat on the floor. Lean slightly forwards and to your left side until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg. Hold for 30 secs then swap sides.

5. Strengthen the knees and thighs.

Your knee joints are under a heavy load when you are standing and walking. That load gets even greater when you climb up and down the stairs (up to 3.5 times your bodyweight!). To help your knees take the strain, build the muscles which surround the joint to provide strength and support.

  • Seated march: Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly march your legs up and down while keeping your back straight and head erect. Keep marching for 30 secs.
  • Seated leg raises: Sitting in a chair, straighten one leg in the air (without locking the knee). Hold for a few seconds then bend your knee to lower the foot halfway to the floor, hold a couple more seconds then place your foot gently down on the floor. Repeat for 30 secs, and then swap legs.
  • Sit to stand: Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and lean forward slightly. Stand up slowly by lifting your body straight up (make sure you do this without rocking back and forward). Sit down slowly by reversing the process. Repeat 10 times.

That’s it! Remember that recovery is a slow process, so take your time.

Bandolier’s Little Book of Pain. Andrew Moore, Jayne Edwards, Jodie Barden & Henry McQuay. (2003).
Explain Pain. David Butler & Lorimer Moseley. (2003).