Do Arthritis Patients Live With Constant Pain?

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Question: Do Arthritis Patients Live With Constant Pain?

The first day you experience arthritis pain, you immediately wonder if it will ever go away. You become instantly afraid that you are facing a life filled with unrelenting pain.

Arthritis pain is chronic, which is defined as pain that will last six months or more. Constant pain is ever-present and never goes away. Technically-speaking, chronic pain is not necessarily constant pain, but in some situations it can be.

Answer: Arthritis Pain May be Variable or Constant

A diagnosis of arthritis usually comes after you are experiencing pain. Arthritis pain can be variable rather than constant. There are times when you may be at a high level of pain or other times when the intensity of pain is lower. You may want to keep a diary of when you experience pain and at what level.

If you are not already in constant pain, you will see that your pain is variable and you may be able to spot patterns. Even if you are in constant pain, the intensity will likely vary. Noting when it is better or worse and what activities you were engaged in that day may help you and your doctor determine how to address your pain. Lifestyle modifications may be able to reduce pain, and your doctor may recommend when it is best to take pain-relievers.

Are You a Morning Person?

Pain may vary by time of day. For example, inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are characterized by morning stiffness -- a period of an hour or more after waking when you may feel considerable pain and stiffness.

With osteoarthritis, pain and stiffness typically improve within 30 minutes after waking.

Bearing Weight Adds Burden to Joints

Osteoarthritis pain, especially of the hips and knees, is typically worse when you are engaged in weight-bearing activities such as walking or running. The pain level can be reduced to essentially nothing if you sit or lie down.

If you are overweight, losing weight may reduce the burden on your joints and lessen pain during weight-bearing activities.

Increased Activity Can Add to Pain Level

Physical activity is beneficial for your overall general health. Too much physical activity can cause arthritis pain to flare up, though. Overdoing physical activity is contrary to the principles of joint protection, which advise pacing your activities to help you keep pain at a manageable level.

Disease Severity

Joint damage contributes to your level of pain. Extensive damage interferes with your ability to get comfortable no matter what other circumstances exist. A commonly used term, bone-on-bone, implies there is no cartilage left covering the bones in a joint. When bone rubs on bone, the result is constant pain. At that point, joint replacement is often the only treatment that can relieve the constant pain.

So while it's appropriate to say that arthritis is chronic, meaning it will last for the rest of your life, circumstances, such as the time of day, level of activity, disease severity and effectiveness of treatment contribute to your level of pain.

Without question, learning how to manage arthritis pain is essential.

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