Arthritis can cause pain in one particular part of the body or more widespread joint and muscle pain. Medications will help but a physiotherapist can tell you about other methods of pain relief that work alongside your medications.
The following pain relief treatments can be suggested by a physiotherapists:
- Ice packs can be used to soothe hot, swollen joints
- Heat packs help to relax tense, tired muscles
- Splinting of swollen or painful joints may be helpful during a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis. Your physiotherapist or an occupational therapist (OT) may provide temporary splints for you.
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) works by blocking pain messages to your brain and altering your perception of pain. A TENS machine is a small electronic device that sends pulses to your nerve endings via pads placed on your skin. This causes a tingling sensation that you may find soothing.
Overdoing things can increase your pain, but so can not doing enough. Your physiotherapist can advise you on increasing your activity level at a rate you can cope with and on finding the right balance between rest and activity. Planning your activities so that you don’t overdo it will let you to enjoy the things you want to do.
Take regular graded exercise. Graded exercise starts slowly and increases in small steps. This will help you to strengthen your muscles and joints and increase your fitness. Improving your general fitness and stamina will help you to increase your activity level without increasing your pain. Regular exercise will also stimulate production of your body’s own natural pain-relieving hormones (endorphins).
Your physiotherapist may offer other treatments, including the following:
- Massage can help the muscles relax and make joint movement more comfortable.
- Acupuncture can stimulate the brain to produce endorphins. Some physiotherapists are trained to give acupuncture.
- Electrotherapy using techniques such as ultrasound and low-level laser therapy can help to stimulate the healing process and therefore reduce pain.
- Manipulation can help to improve the range of movement in your joint. It’s not appropriate for every patient, but your physiotherapist will be able to advise whether it could be useful to you.