Seniors: How to ease arthritis pain

For the 50 million American adults suffering from arthritis, symptom management is the name of the game. Although it’s the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and the second most frequently reported chronic condition, there are no known cures for the family of musculoskeletal disorders known as arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Therefore, arthritis treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function.

Traditionally, the common signs and symptoms of arthritis (meaning “joint inflammation”) may include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, redness and a decreased range of motion. There are numerous types of arthritis — more than 100 in all — and therefore many treatments, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, lifestyle and home remedies, surgery and alternative medicine. Many arthritis sufferers will benefit from some combination of these options.

One of the most commonly used arthritis medications is a category called NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce both pain and inflammation. Popular over-the-counter NSAIDs include naproxen sodium, as well as ibuprofen, both available under a variety of retail “store-brand” labels.

“Pain and swelling have a serious impact on quality of life for many arthritis patients,” says Dr. John Tower, president and medical director of Arthritis Physicians LLC in Rochester Hills, Mich. “In combination with other therapies, NSAIDs like naproxen sodium and arthritis pain-relieving topical ointments can provide some symptomatic relief, and therefore can be an important part of a patient’s treatment plan.

“For patients prescribed an NSAID by their physician, I would encourage them to purchase store-brand naproxen sodium or ibuprofen sold at leading retailers and pharmacies,” Tower says. “These products are regulated by the FDA and use the same active ingredients but cost significantly less than the brand names.”

In addition to drugs for combating pain relief and inflammation, many arthritis patients find relief with physical therapy, lifestyle and home remedies and even alternative medicine.

“Arthritis patients need to work closely with their primary-care physicians or rheumatologist to determine which combination of treatment options is best for them,” says Tower, who has been a board-certified rheumatologist for 21 years. “Appropr-iate management of symptoms can help people with arthritis to decrease pain, improve function and stay productive.”

“Arthritis is a complex disorder with many causes and no cure, but there are effective treatments to manage the symptoms,” says Tower. “Symptom management looks different for every patient, so arthritis sufferers should consider all of the options in partnership with their physician.” — ara content n