When you feel bad, you naturally want relief from your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms right away. There are ways to ease pain, even if you can’t stop it completely. Some of these methods may surprise you.
Have you tried creams made with capsaicin?
Capsaicin is an ingredient in hot peppers. It's in some creams that you can rub on painful joints. In studies, people with RA who used it this way said they had less pain.
Capsaicin prompts the body to release a natural chemical that helps to communicate pain between nerves and parts of the body. At first, you may feel more pain, but then it usually eases up.
Are you sure you have effective pain medication?
Some RA drugs help control the condition over the long run by reducing inflammation and joint damage. But when you have a flare of pain, you need an immediate pain reliever. Acetaminophen and NSAIDs like ibuprofen can help ease pain right away. So can a corticosteroid shot. Or, you may need a prescription-strength pain reliever. Call your doctor's office -- tell them how you feel and ask what you need.
Have you looked into electrical stimulation (TENS)?
A TENS unit is a small device that sends electrical signals into your body through electrodes placed on your skin near the area of pain. It's not clear exactly how TENS works, but it does help some people with RA.
One theory is that TENS stimulates the nerves and interrupts normal pain signals. Another idea is that it triggers the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers.
A TENS unit in your home may get you through a particularly painful flare of RA symptoms. Most people feel less pain while the device is on. But after they turn it off, the pain usually returns.
Have you considered joint injections?
Steroid injections calm inflammation and pain quickly in the specific joints that hurt. They're one of the most effective ways to ease pain in one or two swollen joints. You may already know about corticosteroid pills and their side effects. Injections directly into a joint cause fewer side effects than pills.