Living with Chronic Pain and Osteoarthritis
Pain is personal. While it’s something you feel physically, your emotions and thoughts play a significant role in how you experience pain.
Pain is your body’s warning system alerting you to harm. Your brain interprets pain signals from your nerves (usually starting from those closest to the source of harm) based on their intensity and location, as well as your surroundings, previous injury experience, your beliefs, your emotional state, and many other factors. You feel the pain after your brain has processed all of this information. This is why each person’s experience of pain is unique – even between people with the same disease or injury.
There are different types of pain:
- Acute pain is short-term pain that protects you and prevents more damage to your body by changing your behavior. For example, after an injury the pain usually goes away once your body has healed, or the unpleasant stimulus has been removed.
- Chronic pain (also called persistent pain) typically lasts for more than three months and is not always associated with damage. People who live with chronic diseases, like osteoarthritis, often live with chronic pain.
Chronic pain, in particular, may affect all aspects of your life. It interferes with sleep and raises your stress levels, which may make the pain feel more intense. It may also take a toll on your mental health, making you feel angry, depressed, anxious, and frustrated.
How can I manage my pain symptoms?
People living with chronic pain caused by a chronic disease often believe that the effects are inevitable, so they don’t take active steps to manage their pain. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.
For example, osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of the whole joint that leads to the breakdown of cartilage and the underlying bone. Its symptoms include pain, swelling, or stiffness of the joints, which may make it difficult to perform ordinary tasks. Simple acts like tucking in bed sheets, opening a box of food, grasping a computer mouse, or driving a car might become difficult.
However, mild to moderate OA symptoms are improved with physical activity. While it may be hard to think of exercise when the joints hurt, strengthening exercises build muscles around affected joints, easing the burden and reducing pain. Losing weight can also help reduce pain for all stages of OA and limit further joint damage.
Medications are available for pain relief, ranging from oral analgesics to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medicines that can also be injected directly into the painful joint via Image-Guided Pain Therapy injections.
Hyaluronic acid is another treatment option for OA patients with joint pain. This substance occurs naturally in joint fluid, acting as a shock absorber and lubricant, but is degraded in people with osteoarthritis. It can be replenished by injecting into the joint under image guidance.
There are many more treatments options for osteoarthritis pain, including physiotherapy and surgery. If you are affected by chronic pain, take the next step to relieving your symptoms and speak with your health care practitioner about options for pain management.