Chronic pain comes in a variety of forms. Joint pain is a common one. If you suffer from stiff, achy joints, you’re not alone. Twenty-seven million Americans have osteoarthritis — leader of the pack when it comes to joint-pain culprits. Whatever the reason, there are special steps that can help ease painful hip, shoulder, spine and knee pain. Here are 5 of them: 1. Eat to relieve joint pain. Food can’t prevent or cure joint pain, but certain nutrients not only enhance muscle and bone strength, they also take a bite out of joint pain. Fill your plate with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, pain-fighting polyphenols, and vitamins C, K, and D. 2. Move to improve joint pain. Resist the urge to hit the couch when your joints hurt. Move through the pain instead. Why? Exercise triggers the production of lubricating synovial fluid and feel-good brain chemicals, and improves joint pain, function, and range of motion. 3. Watch your weight. If you’re overweight, ask your doctor for a safe weight-loss plan. Every excess pound you shed takes 4 pounds of pressure off your knees, and can reduce hip and back pain, too. 4. Work with your doctor. Ask your primary care physician if a specialist can help you with your joint pain. An orthopedic specialist and/or physical therapist may be better equipped to tailor an effective pain-treatment plan. 5. Don’t ignore joint pain. Pace yourself and avoid activities that aggravate your joint pain, such as running long distances, lifting heavy objects, or kneeling for hours pulling weeds. Use a daily pain diary to note the activities that worsen or improve your joint symptoms.
A trigger point is a tight area within muscle tissue that causes pain in other parts of the body. A trigger point in the back, for example, may reduce referral pain in the neck. The neck, now acting as a satellite trigger point, may then cause pain in the head. The pain may be sharp and intense or a dull ache. Trigger point massage therapy is specifically designed to alleviate the source of the pain through cycles of isolated pressure and release. In this type of massage for trigger point therapy, the recipient actively participates through deep breathing as well as identifying the exact location and intensity of the discomfort. The results and benefits of trigger point massage are releasing constricted areas in the muscles thus alleviating pain. You can experience a significant decrease in pain after just one treatment. Receiving massage with trigger point therapy on a regular basis can help naturally manage pain and stress from chronic injuries.
In developing a treatment plan, your NY Spine Medicine physician will assess the type of disease or condition you have and its impact. A team approach for the treatment of back problems is often the most effective. Medical treatments include surgical or nonsurgical care and self-care strategies. The goal is to restore function and prevent re-injury. Self Care: We believe that most back pain resolves with self-care measures such as rest, ice or heat, massage, over-the-counter pain relievers, or gentle stretches. Applying ice and then heat is helpful to relax the muscles and decrease muscle inflammation. We generally recommend that you apply an ice pack for 20 minutes several times a day during the first 48 hours. A warm shower or a heating pad on the low setting may help relax tight muscles. A short period of bed rest is okay, but more than a couple of days does more harm than good. If home treatments aren’t working within the first couple of days, it is time to see one of our physicians. Medications: We may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. If you have spasms, a muscle relaxant may be prescribed for 3 to 4 days. If the pain is severe, an analgesic that can be taken with the NSAID or muscle relaxant may be prescribed.
Steroids can be used to reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerves. They are taken orally in a tapering dosage over a five-day period or as an injection directly into the source of pain, such as an epidural steroid injection or facet injection. Steroids may provide almost immediate pain relief within 24-hours. Physical therapy: The goal of physical therapy is to help you return to full activity as soon as possible and prevent re-injury. Our professional physical therapists will instruct you on proper lifting and walking techniques, and they’ll work with you to strengthen and stretch your lower back, leg, and stomach muscles. Stretching and strengthening exercises are key elements to your treatment and should become part of your life-long daily routine. Massage, ultrasound, diathermy, heat, and traction may also be recommended for short periods of time. Surgery: We believe that surgery should only be used after exhausting conservative treatment options. Before major “open back” surgery, we have many minimally invasive procedures that should be tried prior to making a decision to have surgery.
Neck pain is discomfort in any of the structures in the neck. These include the muscles, nerves, bones (vertebrae), and the disks between the bones.
When your neck is sore, you may have difficulty moving it, especially turning to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere. Home Care
For minor, common causes of neck pain: -Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). -Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, then use heat after that. Heat may be applied with warm showers, hot compresses, or a heating pad. To prevent injuring your skin, do not fall asleep with a heating pad or ice bag in place. -Stop normal physical activity for the first few days. This helps calm your symptoms and reduce inflammation. -Do slow range-of-motion exercises, up and down, side to side, and from ear to ear. This helps to gently stretch the neck muscles. -Have a partner gently massage the sore or painful areas.
-Try sleeping on a firm mattress without a pillow or with a special neck pillow. -Ask your health care provider about using a soft neck collar to relieve discomfort. Do not use the collar for a long time. Doing so can make your neck muscles weaker.
You may want to reduce your activity only for the first couple of days. Then slowly resume your usual activities. Do not do any heavy lifting or twisting of your back or neck for the first 6 weeks after the pain begins. After 2 to 3 weeks, slowly begin exercising again. A physical therapist can help you decide when to begin stretching and strengthening exercises and how to do them.
You’re in the drugstore, confused about whether you should purchase hot packs or cold packs. Which work best to relieve your joint pain? The truth is, neither ice not heat are better than the other. In fact, together, they’re pretty much the best natural pain relievers there are. What does matter though is when you use each on an achy joint. The best time to use ice directly is when a joint is swollen or warm. Applying cold helps constrict the blood vessels, bringing down swelling and tenderness. For chronic arthritis pain, ice your joint up to 4 times a day for about 15 to 20 minutes. A plastic bag of ice cubes, a store-bought cold pack, or even a bag of frozen veggies should do the job. Remember to put a towel between your skin and the ice to prevent frostbite. The best time to apply heat is a the swelling has gone down. Heat helps relieve stiffness, soreness, and promotes blood flow. Moist heat like a hot towel or bath works best, but you can also use a hot water bottle or heating pad. Like you did with the ice, apply heat for 15 to 20 minutes, up to 4 times a day. Some people like to alternate ice and heat: 10 minutes ice; 10 minutes heat. But you have to judge what is best for your sore joints and how you react to both hot and cold therapy.