Pain Management for Arthritis

Things that may make
osteoarthritis pain feel worse
Things that can help make osteoarthritis pain more manageable1
  • Overdoing physical activity
  • Getting too little sleep
  • Overly tiring your joints
  • Putting undue stress on affected joints (eg, carrying heavy shopping bags with one hand)
  • Getting regular, moderate exercise
  • Losing weight, if necessary
  • Getting massages, and heat and/or cold treatments
  • Giving your joints a rest when they need it
  • Taking your medication(s) as prescribed

Arthritis pain can occur in any joint. The type of symptoms you have will depend on the type of arthritis you have, but it most often affects the knees, hips, back, or hands. This may affect not only your ability to get around but also your ability to engage in many of your favorite day-to-day activities and hobbies.1

What hurts and what helps
Why you should not skip medications
Simple lifestyle changes to help control pain

Understanding What Hurts and What Can Help

Learning how to manage your arthritis pain can help you take back control of your life and be able to participate in more of the daily activities you enjoy. To get pain relief for arthritis, it helps to know what can make arthritis pain feel worse and what can help you in managing it.

The Importance of Taking Your Medication as Directed

What about days when you're feeling pretty good? When your arthritis pain seems to be under control you may be tempted to take a few days off from your NSAID therapy. But to keep pain and swelling under control, you must continue to take your medication as directed by your health care professional.

Simple Lifestyle Changes for Arthritis Pain Relief

Lifestyle changes can help you get pain relief for arthritis, and can also help prevent OA from getting to the point where it limits your ability to participate in everyday activities. Here are some helpful suggestions to discuss with your doctor.

Get regular exercise. Moderate exercise can be an effective way to help manage OA pain and reduce joint pain and stiffness. Before getting started, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the type of exercise that's right for you. Then get moving with a program that can include

  • Strengthening exercises to build the muscles that support the joints affected by arthritis
  • Range-of-motion exercises, such as stretching your arms, legs, and back, to help keep your joints flexible
  • Endurance exercises, such as walking or swimming, to help keep your heart, lungs, and muscles strong

Protect your joints. Talk to your doctor about ways to help reduce added stress on your joints. Some helpful tips include

  • Don't over-stress an affected joint. Use self-help devices, such as jar openers and buttoning aids, and use both arms when carrying things to avoid putting too much stress on one joint
  • Avoid staying in one position too long. Reposition your body often to keep your joints from becoming stiff and painful
  • Balance activity with rest. Don't keep going when your joints are telling you they need a break. Take a breather when you need it
  • Watch your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce stress on your joints and increase your ability to get around. Talk to your doctor about healthy eating habits and coming up with a plan for you


  1. Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Accessed May 22, 2014.