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All About Osteoarthritis and Women

13 Tips: Rein in Your Osteoarthritis Pain continued...

4. Get Strong. Muscles become weak when you have osteoarthritis, and that leads to more pain. By doing exercises to strengthen muscles, you ease the pain and develop greater stability in your joints -- so there's less risk of falls. Also, special exercises can increase the range of motion in your joints. Talk to your physician or physical therapist to be sure you're doing these exercises correctly.

5. Have Fun. Don't let your life be all about osteoarthritis. Get out, have a good time! When you're distracted from the pain, you'll feel happier. Sports, hobbies, volunteer projects, and other activities can take your mind off the pain. If you're having trouble participating in favorite activities, talk to an occupational therapist about your options.

6. Make Adjustments. Sensible changes can lessen the strain on joints and muscles and prevent painful spasms. If you have osteoarthritis in your back, make sure it gets good support when you sit. That means sitting in a chair to read, not reading in bed. If you have arthritis in your hip, it helps to adjust the toilet seat or furniture to a comfortable level.

7. Use Heat and Cold. Heating pads, hot packs, a warm bath or shower, warm wax (paraffin) applications -- these increase blood flow, easing pain and stiffness. Cold packs can reduce inflammation in a sore area. Many people keep bags of ice or frozen vegetables (like peas) on hand. Wrapped in a towel, these cold packs easily mold to fit a sore joint, like a knee.

8. Take a Break. While exercise is great for helping osteoarthritis, overexertion can cause even more pain. It's important to slow down or stop when you need to. Tune in to your body, and learn when you're doing too much.

9. Catch Lots of ZZZs. Life is better when you get a good night's sleep. You feel less pain and cope better overall. If you're having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. You may need a better mattress or different sleep position. Taking your medications on a different schedule can also provide more nighttime pain relief. Take a warm bath before bedtime to relax sore muscles.

10. Get a Soothing Massage. For treatment of pain, Americans rate massage as highly as medications. One in five adults got a therapeutic massage last year -- and three-quarters of them would recommend it to others, one survey showed. Massage helps relieve pain by increasing blood flow and warmth in painful areas.

11. Take Drugs Correctly. Non-prescription painkillers like Tylenol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil or Aleve can be effective at relieving osteoarthritis pain. But it's important to take them according to label directions. "A lot of patients take one pill a day and say it's not working," says Kaur. "Before you give up on it, you must take it around the clock as directed."

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