by Jackson Rainer, PhD
Topical creams and gels such as ArthriCare, Icy Hot, and Mineral Ice are another type of counterirritant commonly used for arthritis pain. These products relieve pain by creating a sensation of warmth or coolness over the sore area of the joint. Different products have different active ingredients and may contain camphor, eucalyptus oil, menthol, or oil of wintergreen.
Acupuncture is an ancient therapy that helps some people control pain. In the Chinese tradition, it is based on the belief in a vital energy force in the body called qi (pronounced “chee”), and the practice is focused on balancing and restoring energy flow. In Western practice, fine metal needles are inserted under the skin and may be twirled or electrically charged to stimulate nerves believed to be associated with distally located parts of the body. There is relatively little empirical research on acupuncture for chronic pain, but results from the studies that have been done are promising.
More traditional physical therapy, in which a physical therapist guides you through exercises that help you maintain joint flexibility and physical function, can also be a big help, and it continues to be one of the frontline treatments for chronic arthritis pain.
Which approach to pain control works best? All of them: A combination of medical, physical, and cognitive-behavioral therapies seems to be the most beneficial for people with chronic pain. Thinking about pain differently, changing typical pain behaviors, and increasing physical movement may help diminish an individual’s feelings of “pain helplessness” and increase physical endurance.
The woman who defined pain as an unwelcome visitor talked further about her pain. She said, “I sometimes feel like David, and Goliath is my pain. However, I don’t try to go it alone against my Goliath. Because I know that I have to live with pain the rest of my life, I want every method, technique, and intervention that I can find to help me manage — not fight — the pain. This is not a battle that I can win, but it is one that I can work with if I combine the resources of my body, mind, and spirit. If I make room for the pain, then I’m better able to keep it at bay, and I can live reasonably well, most of the time.”
Last Reviewed on May 2, 2012
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