Arthritis Management Tips to Help Your Loved One

Headaches, toothaches, sore muscles are all pains that interfere with accomplishing normal activities. Sometimes these pains are the signs of other illnesses, like pneumonia or UTI.  Most of the time, treatment is available to alleviate our everyday aches and pains allowing us to manage the day ahead. Those that suffer from arthritis learn how to approach each day with day with pain. This is no easy feat and one that is also difficult for friends and family members to watch and not know how to make things better.

elderly arthritis

There are ways to help someone suffering from arthritis. Gaining an understanding of the different types of arthritis and the treatments involved is a good first step. From here, you will be able to offer the most effective assistance.

Understanding Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 100 different forms of arthritis and related diseases. The most common types include osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PSA), fibromyalgia and gout. All of them cause pain in different ways.

In general, there are forms of arthritis that attack the protective cartilage causing break down of joints and other forms of arthritis that attack the immune system causing inflammation and pain. Many resources are available to best understand your loved one’s pain and creating the best treatment strategy.

The Mayo Clinic suggests the following basic do’s and don’ts for arthritis pain:

  • Stay ahead of the pain with education, help, and communication with your loved one’s doctor.
  • Encourage daily stretching and balanced activity.
  • Implement effective lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and quitting smoking
  • Avoid high impact activities.

Once you have a clear understanding of your loved one’s situation you will be able to offer help that will make a positive difference.

Drugstore Remedies

There are a multitude of over-the-counter pain relievers in the forms of pills and topical creams available at your local drugstore. Deciding which one will work best can be overwhelming. A discussion with your loved one’s doctor or friends in a similar situation will assist in your selection.

Pain medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen are often used to alleviate pain and discomfort in muscles and joints. Topical creams bring comfort to joints that are closest to the skin’s surface. Many opt for creams in order to refrain from taking another pill. The overall effectiveness of creams is inconclusive and it is suggested that they are most effective when coupled with other treatment.

Prescription treatment for arthritis is also available and should be considered when drugstore remedies do not bring relief or when other medicines taken by your loved one, such as a blood thinner, eliminate the ability to use some over-the-counter medicine.

Prescription Remedies

The Mayo Clinic defines various common prescription medications as follows:

  • Analgesics – These medications help reduce pain but have no effect on inflammation. Your loved one’s doctor may prescribe tramadol and other narcotics containing oxycodone or hydrocodone.
  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – NSAIDSs reduce both pain and inflammation.
  • DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) – This is often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in order to stop or slow the immune system from attacking the joints.
  • Biologic response modifiers – Typically used with DMARDs to target protein molecules involved with the immune response.
  • Corticosteroids – This type of drug reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system and can be taken orally or injected directly into the painful joint.

Medicine will most definitely be a part of your loved one’s arthritis treatment. It is quite possible that several will be tried before finding the best overall result that relieves pain while improving joint function.

Physical Therapy

You, along with your loved one’s doctor, can suggest physical therapy as part of a treatment strategy. The expertise a physical therapist offers can help manage their condition by improving movement techniques and increasing strength to support the affected joint. Maintaining optimum fitness benefits both the body and the mind.

Positive Thinking

The best plan to help your loved one manage arthritis includes ways to overcome negative thinking. The daily struggle with pain can formulate discouraging thoughts that interfere with the treatment plan. If hopelessness sets in one can simply give up on actions that help manage pain. The Mayo Clinic suggests the following therapies to offset a destructive mind-body interaction:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy –  This well-studied, effective combination of talk therapy and behavior modification helps you identify — and break — cycles of self-defeating thoughts and actions.
  • Relaxation therapy –  Meditating, doing yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, being in nature, writing in a journal — do whatever helps you relax. There’s no downside to relaxation, and it can help ease pain.
  • Acupuncture –  Some people get pain relief through acupuncture treatments, when a trained acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles at specific points on your body. It can take several weeks before you notice improvement.
  • Heat and cold –  Use of heat, such as applying heating pads to aching joints, taking hot baths or showers, or immersing painful joints in warm paraffin wax, can help relieve pain temporarily. Be careful not to burn yourself. Use heating pads for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Massage –  Massage might improve pain and stiffness temporarily. Make sure your massage therapist knows where your arthritis affects you.

Along with these suggested therapies, simply being there for your loved one will provide valuable emotional support. Communicating about the pain and making suggestions for treatments that haven’t been tried provides hope. Creating a distraction from the pain with enjoyable activities or stories will make a bad day a better day. Providing simple forgiveness and support when the pain takes over your loved ones personality eliminates the stress that accompanies guilt. Often times the best treatment to overcome negative emotions is to know you are not alone.

Long-term Management

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no cure for most types of arthritis. Once diagnosed, arthritis will be a part of your loved one’s daily life. Taking the steps mentioned above and adding the things that are unique to the situation are all positive ways to help.

There are also many events benefitting the Arthritis Foundation in which you can participate in to expand your caregiving to advocacy. Getting involved with the movement to discover better answers to manage arthritis is a meaningful and fun way to network with others in similar situations.

Caring for a loved one has challenges but doing it well brings many rewards to all involved.

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