An effective way to ease symptoms is to learn how to respond to pain when you have it. Work closely with your physical therapist and occupational therapist to learn these things.
- Learn how to tell the difference between normal discomfort and a sign that you are doing too much, performing an activity in the wrong way, or being too sedentary. For instance, soreness is a normal response after using muscles that have been inactive for a long time. On the other hand, pain during exercise can mean that you're working too hard or moving the wrong way.
- Learn how to move so that you place the least amount of stress on your joints. Your therapist can teach you pain-free ways to stand up, sit, bend over, kneel, and walk. You can also learn more comfortable ways to carry items and reach into cabinets or up to shelves.
- Don't ignore pain. If you feel sore for one hour or more after any activity, you're probably doing too much. Use this experience as a sign that you need to cut back on what you're doing or to find other ways to complete necessary tasks. Before continuing, talk with your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist. If your pain increases after exercise, talk with any of these healthcare providers to make sure you don't have a strain or sprain.
- Alternate with heat and cold directly over the affected joint to reduce pain. You should not apply either for more than 10 minutes at a time.
You may use any of these methods to apply heat.
- a heating pad with dry or moist heat
- a hot pad that can be heated in a microwave
- a hot-water bottle
- a warm washcloth
- a shower nozzle to direct warm water on the sore area
You may use any of these methods to apply cold.
- a freezer gel pack wrapped in cloth
- crushed ice in a plastic bag wrapped in cloth
- a paper cup filled with water and then frozen (You can rub it over the affected area and peel it back as the ice melts.)
- a bag of frozen peas or corn, which molds easily over rounded joints
You may also use skin creams that both warm the skin and provide a cooling effect.