Thursday, February 3, 2011

Self-Care: 5 Ways to Ease Arthritis Pain

When you have arthritis, some days are better than others. Your joint pain can be affected by any number of things: your activity level, the weather or even how well you rested the night before. Sometimes, the flares just come out of nowhere. Here are some suggestions I've found helpful for relieving arthritis pain.

1. Epsom Salt Soak: Magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom Salt, can transform your daily bath into a therapeutic soak.  Magnesium is known as a relaxation mineral, and can be absorbed through the skin when added to bath water. For arthritis pain, a soak in a warm epsom salt bath can reduce inflammation, ease muscle cramps and relax stiff joints. Most directions suggest two cups of Epsom Salt for a bath, but I think it depends on how large your bath tub is. I am a huge fan of Epsom Salt soaks -for me, the longer, warmer and more salt, the better!

2. Ice: Ice reduces inflammation and is particularly useful when joints are painful or swollen. An ice pack placed on an inflamed joint reduces joint swelling, constricts blood vessels and numbs pain. Be sure to place a towel or cloth between the ice pack and your skin, and only use for 15-20 minutes at a time. Once skin has returned to it's normal temperature, you can reapply the ice.

3. Heat: A warm towel or heating pad can provide relief from arthritis pain. Heat improves circulation, relaxes muscles and loosens stiff joints. Apply heat for 15-20 at a time, and never fall asleep on a heating pad, as this could result in burns to the skin.

4. Rest:  Many arthritis sufferers experience fatigue. Adequate rest is absolutely necessary, starting with a good night's sleep. Listen to your body and take short rests during the day when needed.

5. Stretch: Avoiding exercise can contribute to joint stiffness and cause muscles to shorten and tighten, which results in greater pain. Range-of-motion exercises will keep joints flexible and help relax muscles and tendons. On days when your joints are aching, a gentle stretching routine or restorative yoga class can help relieve pain in tense muscles and stiff joints. 


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