Pain relief for arthritis

Everything about pain relief for arthritis

Pain in one or more joints is the most common symptom of arthritis. At first, the pain is bearable, but over the years it may get worse and the pain might be continuously present: chronic joint pain.

In osteoarthritis, the rough bone ends grind against each other when the cartilage becomes very thin. We call this bone-to-bone contact. Abnormal bone growth around the edges of the affected joints can also cause pain. In this way, the body tries to widen the joints, which divides the pressure across a larger surface area. In addition, inflammation caused by osteoarthritis may develop, causing not only pain, but also swelling. Using medication may relieve the pain and fight the inflammation. What resources are there and when should you use them?

What is pain exactly?

Pain relief for arthritis
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) says that pain is invisible, a feeling, unpleasant, and feels like ‘damage’. We all know that feeling, for example, when you want to lift a very hot pan with your bare hands. Your body’s pain system signals for you to immediately let go. This pain signal prevents, or at least limits, extensive tissue damage. When something goes wrong your body uses the nervous system to create pain, like an alarm system. Your body sends signals through the nerves by producing chemicals, such as prostaglandins.  Subsequently, the nerves in the spinal cord send the signal to the brain. At that moment, you are aware of the pain.

The pain in your joints does not come from the wearing cartilage. This elastic tissue between the joints does not contain nerve cells that can signal damage. It is actually the nerve cells of the bones and mucous membranes, which send signals to the brain. Bone-to-bone contact, the presence of inflammatory factors in the joint fluid, are just two examples.

Acetaminophen in arthritis

Initially, your doctor may advise you use Acetaminophen. This is a simple painkiller available without prescription at your drugstore or pharmacy. Acetaminophen combats pain but does not help against inflammation. This medication is fast acting, however it is not long lasting, and you need to take it regularly.

Researchers at the University of Sidney in Australia warn that Acetaminophen is insufficient for the treatment of low back pain and osteoarthritis in the hip and knee. The University compared Acetaminophen to a placebo (fake medication) during 13 clinical trials. During these trials patients with low back pain saw no relief with the use of this painkiller. While patients with osteoarthitis of the hip and knee only saw slight pain relief and a small increase in mobility.

Most people think of Acetaminophen as an innocent medication without side effects. When taken in a responsible manner, that is indeed true. However, prolonged high doses of 3 grams per day may cause damage to the liver cells.  Liver damage is caused by the toxic by-product NAPQI, which develops in the liver during the degradation of Acetaminophen. The liver normally neutralizes this substance, when used in safe and short-term doses. In other cases, this poison will accumulate and destroy the liver cells. The Australian researchers therefore urge further research into long-term use of Acetaminophen by osteoarthritis patients. This is indeed the most prescribed drug in this condition worldwide.

NSAIDs in osteoarthritis

When the arthritis is accompanied by inflammation, the doctor will prescribe an anti-inflammatory analgesic. These medications are also called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They relieve pain, fever and inflammation. The most famous drugs in this group are Diclofenac, Naproxen and Ibuprofen. These anti-inflammatory pain relievers, also known as clasic NSAIDs, have been available for decades. Modern NSAIDs developed later. These are selective COX-2 inhibitors. COX-2 is an enzyme that plays an important role in the development of inflammatory processes in the joints. An example of a modern NSAID is Etoricoxib.

The disadvantage of using NSAIDs is the possibility of several negative side effects. These drugs stimulate the production of gastric acid. This can lead to a stomach ulcers, gastric irritation and even stomach bleeding. NSAIDs also inhibit platelets and therefore blood clotting. Therefore, patients using blood thinners should not use NSAID’s. Because NSAIDs also have a blood-thinning effect, this can lead to (cerebral) bleeding. Therefore, many patients with arthritis prefer not to use NSAIDs.

A good alternative is Liquid Green-lipped mussel with Bio-Curcumin and Blackcurrant leaf. This is a natural anti-inflammatory pain reliever, which gives 70% of users equally good results (compared with NSAIDs) within 80 days. To date, there have been no reports of negative side effects. This joint formula is available without a prescription at the pharmacy, drugstore, health store, and even online.

Corticosteroids in osteoarthritis

Your doctor may inject corticosteroids in large joints that are inflamed. This applies to the shoulder, knee, elbow, wrist and ankle. Corticosteroids are stress hormones that are naturally produced in the adrenal gland. These hormones play an important role in inhibiting inflammation. The action of such an injection lasts several weeks to several months. These injections may reduce the inflammation, but the osteoarthritis continues to exist. In fact, corticosteroids have a damaging effect on cartilage: it is therefore not the best long-term treatment of osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, such an injection with corticosteroids may provide some benefits. For example, if you want to enjoy a vacation, or have a few months to wait for a prosthesis.

Pain clinic and osteoarthritis

Your doctor may refer you to a pain clinic if the mentioned solutions do not provide you with sufficient results. One of the other options is to block certain nerves. Blocked nerves can no longer pass pain signals.

Alternative pain relief in osteoarthritis

Many people with osteoarthritis also look for alternative treatment options that should lead to less pain and more mobility. The already mentioned liquid Green-lipped mussel with Bio-Curcumin and Blackcurrant leaf has been a widely used natural alternative for several years. In addition, some osteoarthritis patients also benefit from acupuncture, homeopathy or treatment by an orthomolecular physician. See the complete list of all treatment options for osteoarthritis.


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