How Can I Treat My Joint Pain Without Medication?

How Can I Treat My Joint Pain Without Medication?

November 26, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Sagar Parikh, M.D.

Our joints bear a heavy burden—they connect the whole skeleton together and allow our bodies to move in all sorts of ways, so it’s common to feel pain and discomfort in any number of them, especially as we age.

While medication can temporarily ease the pain caused by achy joints, it won’t heal it. “Pain medications mask the pain for a little while, but they don’t do anything to help increase the function or health of that joint,” says Sagar Parikh, M.D., an interventional pain medicine specialist at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

Here is what you should know about joint pain and how you can treat it beyond pain medication.

What Causes Joint Pain?

The most common causes of joint pain are:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Gout
  • Muscular strains
  • Ligament sprains

The Most Common Joint Complaints

  1. Knee pain
  2. Shoulder pain
  3. Hip pain

How to Treat Joint Pain

“We put anyone complaining of joint pain through a very thorough examination because not all joint pain is the same,” Dr. Parikh says. “We have to properly diagnose the pain and find the precise pain generators before we can tailor a treatment plan.”

Ways to treat joint pain at home include:

  • Ice: Apply ice to your joints to relieve pain and swelling. Ice the joint for 15 minutes several times a day.
  • Heat: After a day or so, try a heating pad to address any muscle spasms around the joint.
  • Rest: Rest the joint during the first day and avoid any activities that cause you pain. Keep in mind that after the initial inflammation goes away, you will need to strengthen that joint through exercise.
  • Supplements: You can also look into taking supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin. “Glucosamine sulfate has been shown to reduce pain in patients suffering from arthritic joint pain. However there is not enough evidence to show that it decreases inflammation,” says Dr. Parikh. “While the uses of supplements may be effective, we need more longitudinal studies to see the real effects.” That being said, some patients report improvement after taking these supplements, and if taken properly, they pose little harm to your health.
  • Losing weight: Joint pain is common in people who are overweight, so losing weight could relieve some of the pressure on your joints. Your doctor can help customize an exercise plan that’s right for you, but swimming and cycling are two ways to work out without putting too much stress on your joints.

Here are ways your doctor may treat your joint pain in an office-setting:

  • Corticosteroid injections: Armed with the right diagnosis, doctors can administer a corticosteroid injection or a targeted nerve block, which can decrease inflammation and ease the pain. “Our goal is to reduce pain and inflammation, and preserve the joint’s function,” Dr. Parikh says.
  • Physical therapy: Patients suffering from joint pain can benefit greatly from physical therapy. A physical therapist will use heat and cold therapy and a wide variety of other modalities to ease the pain, strengthen and stabilize the joint, and improve range of motion.
  • Regenerative medicine: There have been many advancements in the field of regenerative medicine to help heal damaged or injured tissue, including the lining of your joints. These therapies include injection of substances found in your blood or other compounds into specific locations to strengthen tissue and decrease the effects of long-term arthritis.

Whatever your treatment plan, if the pain in your joint becomes too intense or it suddenly becomes inflamed or swollen, get medical help right away.

Next Steps & Resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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