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Make a plan for managing arthritis pain

A man massages his own hand

A pain-management plan is a written document that outlines steps for easing discomfort and living life more fully.

Successfully controlling arthritis pain may require a variety of treatments, such as medication, exercise and rest. Working with your medical team to create a written pain-management plan can help make sure all your treatments work together to give you maximum pain relief.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, some key things to incorporate into the plan include information about:

Medications. List each of your medicines, when and how to take them and how much to take. Also include details about possible side effects, what to do if they occur and what to do if you miss a dose of your medicine.

Exercise goals. Physical activity may ease pain, improve joint function, lift mood and delay disability. Ask your doctor or another member of your healthcare team which activities are best for you and specify in your plan when you'll exercise and what you'll do.

Use of heat and cold. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, heat and/or cold can sometimes be used to relieve pain. If your doctor says these treatments are right for you, include in your plan which you'll use and when.

Rest periods. Although it's good to be active, occasional rest periods are also important—especially when arthritis flares up, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Your plan should include details about when you'll rest and when you might use devices such as braces, splints and canes to help you rest and protect specific joints.

Time for relaxation. You may find that arthritis pain is worse if you dwell on it. Distract yourself by making time for activities you enjoy. Note in your plan what forms of relaxation you'll practice and when you'll practice them.

Other healthy habits. Adequate sleep and eating healthfully may make you feel better. Your medical team can help you determine how much sleep you need and provide details about a nutritious diet. Then you can include in your plan specific information, such as your sleep goals, your goals for eating well, and any other healthful habits you'll try to practice.

People and places to turn to. Know where to get help if questions or problems arise. Include the names and phone numbers of your doctor, pharmacist and other members of your healthcare team. Also include contact information for a support group and your local Arthritis Foundation office.

Reviewed 8/16/2023

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