5 Ways to Manage RA Pain without Pain Medication

2010-04-02 | |
Last updated: 2019-11-16

Very few people that the majority of us would call ‘well adjusted’ enjoy pain. However, pain is an important tool that our bodies use to communicate with us. Normally it lets us know that something is not right. For people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the constant attack of the immune system on the joints can cause considerable pain. Unfortunately, with a chronic disease of this sort, the pain ceases to provide much valuable information. Instead such pain only limits the quality of life.

How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Affect Quality Of Life?

Although the effects on mobility and activity levels are immediately obvious, the lives of those with the disease are affected in a number of ways. In particular for Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers, the chronic pain and effects of the disease can often lead to depression.

At the same time, the lack of mobility can result in both real isolation and feelings of isolation. In a UK survey, 1 in 3 women reported that their disease interfered with their ability to enjoy family events. In the same study, 2 in 3 women with severe RA found attending family functions very painful. Many women actually avoided going. 76% of women in the study said they experienced pain daily.

Further to effects on family relationships, another important effect of the disease on women relates to intimate relations. A study by the University of Texas found that 60% of women with the disease had less confidence in their sex-life. More than 1 in 3 found sexual activities to be physically painful. Such an effect can cause significant difficulties for relationships.

As all these studies have shown, the effects of the disease and pain from the disease on lifestyle are significant. As a result it is important to minimize pain for more reasons than that not might be immediately obvious.

How Can RA Pain Be Treated Aside From Using Medications?

While medication plays a very important role in limiting Rheumatoid Arthritis pain, those with the condition will still suffer pain. As science gains more understanding of the disease, however, other options are becoming available that can work in concert with the medications. Some methods reduce pain while others reduce the causes of the pain itself.

The following are 5 ways to minimize Rheumatoid Arthritis pain without pain medication.

1. Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain with Moderate Exercise

While experts tout exercise as an important way of promoting health in general, it does have other benefits for those with RA. In research conducted by the Leiden University Medical Center, researchers found that combined aerobic capacity training and muscle strength training at moderate levels provided improved the ability of patients to better function when performed long term. As well, nightly flexibility exercises reduced morning stiffness.

Other research from the University of North Carolina demonstrated that 30 minutes of daily walking reduced the level of pain that most people experienced. Clearly, exercise plays an important part in reducing pain.

2. Weight Management Reduces RA Pain

Another frequently promoted pathway to health is effective weight management. In particular for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, additional weight or obesity can make the effects of the condition more pronounced.

A study from Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Sweden found that those with RA who were obese reported pain levels that were 20% higher than those of normal weight. Though they did not speculate as to the reason, the number is significant enough to warrant better management of personal weight. The same study found that those who were obese were 27% less able than those of normal weight with the disease.

3. Good Oral Health Reduced Pain From Rheumatoid Arthritis

In recent years, researchers found that poor oral health is associated with numerous problems in the body including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For people with RA, good oral health is even more important.

The results of a study led by researchers from Grigore T Popa University of Medicine and Pharmacy found that 56% of RA sufferers had periodontitis. Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gums and bone. The study also found that those with the disease suffered from more severe and painful cases of RA.

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that curing RA patients of periodontitis is beneficial. Through proper oral hygiene, curing the disease significantly reduced joint swelling, morning stiffness and levels of pain. Proper oral hygiene includes brushing and flossing daily.

4. Reducing RA Pain With Dietary Supplements

While there are 101 different complementary or alternative medicines that someone might try to sell to those with RA, most have no benefit with respect to disease symptoms. In an evidence-based study conducted by the Arthritis Research Campaign in the UK, researchers found that 13 of 21 common complementary medicines had no measurable effect. Researchers found the complementary medicine with the most pronounced effect was fish oil.

A similar finding from Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee Scotland found that almost 40% of those taking cod liver oil were able to reduce their level of painkillers by more than 30% without increasing the level of pain that they felt daily.

Another supplement that has very recently shown value to RA patients comes from research at Anhui Medical University in China. There, researchers determined that consumption of chicken cartilage capsules helped to moderate the effects of the immune system in patients with RA. They compared the effects of the supplement with the commonly used drug Methotrexate and found the capsules to be very effective.

5. Effective Use of Medications To Manage RA Pain

Last but not least, for managing RA pain, it is important that patients follow the directions provided by one’s doctor. In particular, follow direction about when to take the often numerous drugs associated with managing Rheumatoid Arthritis.

In one study, McGill University researchers found that more than 50% of patients reported considerable pain despite being under the care of a physician. Looking further, the researchers found than many patients were not taking the medications as directed. This was because of concerns related to drug addiction, drug interactions and fears that the drugs would prevent their knowing about the progression of the disease.

A different study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine also found that not taking drugs as prescribed was a contributing factor in poor quality sleep amongst women with RA. The poor quality sleep contributed to depression and previous research has associated the intensity of pain experiences with depression. As a result, taking the disease controlling medications appropriately helps to limit the need for pain medications.


Without a permanent fix for RA yet identified, and research suggesting that the number of people with the disease increasing, those experiencing Rheumatoid Arthritis pain will continue their efforts to cope. With better science, we are finding that there are ways to help in managing RA without pain medication. Understanding the role that the individual can take to minimize his or her own pain is an important part of this process.

If you suffer from RA pain and have found ways to cope, please share your thoughts in the RA forums.

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Category: Disease Information, Medical Research, Medical Treatment, Symptom Information

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