Physical methods to treat pain

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There are various physical methods available to treat JIA pain including heat, cold, massage, and exercise. Learn how you can use these techniques for pain relief.

Key points

  • Heat helps to relieve stiffness, while cold can help soothe red, swollen joints.
  • Massage can stretch and loosen stiff muscles and help decrease stress.
  • Gentle, regular exercise can help protect your joints and muscles from further injury.

Physical methods like heat, cold, touch, and exercise can help to reduce pain. These strategies can help improve your overall sense of well-being. They can improve your ability to do the things you want to do. Physical treatments can be used on their own for the treatment of pain, However, they are typically used in combination with other pain-relieving methods.

Heat

Heat is helpful when dealing with pain due to stiffness. Applying heat increases blood flow. Heat feels soothing, and it can help relieve stiffness in your muscles and joints.

Here are some ways you can use heat:

  • Use a hot water bottle, heat pack, or heating pad/blanket.
  • Apply heating lotions or gels to the affected area.
  • Have a warm bath or shower.
  • Do exercises in a hot tub or warm swimming pool.
  • Use paraffin wax baths for your hands, feet, and elbows.

Be careful not to burn yourself. Never fall asleep on a heating pad. Turn it off when you get sleepy.

Cold

For some people, cold is a favourite way of dealing with pain. Cold is especially helpful for injured joints and can be helpful for soothing red, swollen joints. Cold gives a natural numbing effect. It numbs the nerve endings in the affected areas. Cold can also help to reduce swelling and inflammation by slowing blood flow and decreasing the activity of cells in your body.

Here are some ways you can use cold:

  • Use a frozen gel pack wrapped in a towel.
  • Try a plastic bag filled with ice or frozen vegetables (peas) wrapped in a towel to avoid freezing your skin.
  • Use a cold cloth or compress.
  • Apply menthol-based gels or lotions to the affected area.

Remember to be careful when using cold so that you do not freeze your skin.


Heat and cold provide short-term pain relief. Some people find it helpful to alternate between using hot and cold for swelling, muscle spasms, and sore joints. Twenty minutes on followed by 20 minutes off is a good rule of thumb when using both heat and cold.

Massage

Massage or rubbing is another way to help manage pain. Massage can stretch and loosen stiff muscles and help decrease stress. Rubbing your sore joint will help to block the pain signals from reaching your brain.

Here are some ways you can use massage:

  • Get a massage from a massage therapist. While this will help to relax your entire body, it probably is not possible to have this done very often, as your insurance might only provide limited coverage.
  • Ask someone to rub your sore joints.
  • Give yourself a massage by rubbing the painful areas.
  • Use a back massage device or massage pillow.

Exercise

Gentle, regular exercise can help protect your joints and muscles from further injury. Exercising helps to build muscle, which in turn provides your joints with more support. If a joint is surrounded by strong muscles, then there is less stress on the joint when it moves than if the surrounding muscles are weak and thin. Regular exercise can also help maintain a healthy weight, which helps to reduce the pressure on your joints.

Regular exercise can also help maintain a healthy weight, which helps to reduce the pressure on your joints.

Exercise encourages healing in injured or inflamed areas and can improve your energy level and mood. Exercise also releases your body’s own natural pain-relieving substances called endorphins.

It is important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy, like swimming, yoga, or walking your dog. You can build up slowly from there.

You might feel like doing nothing if your joints hurt and you can’t do your normal exercise routine. You may also want to be alone and just take it easy. This makes sense when you have pain that lasts a short time. However, with JIA pain that keeps coming back, you may end up spending too much time by yourself. This might lead you to feel lonely, down, or stressed out. Don’t let your pain keep you from doing the things you want to do, especially enjoying the company of other people.

After exercising, you may have a bit of muscle or joint soreness. A little soreness is normal, but severe soreness is a sign that you have done too much. It is important to push your body, but don’t exhaust yourself. If you have severe soreness, reduce the intensity or length of the exercise and then gradually build up again as your muscles get stronger. This is called pacing. It is better to pace yourself and give about the same amount of effort each day, rather than do too much one day and nothing the next day.

Your doctor and physiotherapist can provide you with education and instruction on ways to stay active during a painful flare.

Last updated: January 31st 2017