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How to manage pain at home

Pain is sometimes difficult to treat, but did you know that some kinds of pain can be managed at home?

Orthopedic surgeon Brett Hall, M.D., says mild arthritis and shoulder issues cause pain that often benefits from at-home care.

“The vast majority of shoulder pain that I see either has to do with tendonitis of the shoulder or problems with the rotator cuff,” he says. Upper back pain can also be linked to shoulder issues.

Although it always makes sense to discuss orthopedic pain with a physician, Dr. Hall frequently recommends at-home care and exercises for his patients.

How to start with at-home treatments

“I always recommend starting simple,” he says.

If your pain is relatively mild, try the following:

  • Use thermal therapy by applying a cold or hot pack.
  • Improve your posture.
  • Spend more time standing instead of sitting at your desk all day.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs.

Exercising and stretching at home

Dr. Hall says maintaining mobility and strength is critical for treating orthopedic pain. He frequently refers patients to physical therapists who teach stretching and exercise routines.

The stretches and exercises will differ for people depending on the sources of their pain.

“I have to tailor it to specific situations,” Dr. Hall says.

Working with a physical therapist can be helpful, but for therapy to be most effective, patients must also practice their routines at home. Most routines consist of simple movements that require multiple sets.

“I recommend doing them usually at least three to four times per week,” Dr. Hall says.

He cautions patients against overextending themselves. Perform your required sets, but allow your muscles to recover for a day afterward.

“You don’t want to be doing it so much that you’re fatiguing the muscles and not allowing for recovery time,” Dr. Hall explains. Staff members should also monitor you during physical therapy sessions to ensure you are using the correct form and technique.

Lifestyle changes for pain management and prevention

Although there’s no surefire way to prevent pain, Dr. Hall says some lifestyle changes can make a big difference in management and prevention.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Get enough sleep at night.
  • Get outside and stay active.

Take it slow and easy if it’s been a while since you’ve worked out. If you want to get back into running, try some short jogs before signing up for that marathon.

“I think it’s important for people, if they’ve been inactive, to use a gradual approach,” Dr. Hall notes.

When do you need more serious pain care?

Not all pain will respond well to at-home treatments. For example, Dr. Hall says, moderate to severe osteoarthritis or full-thickness rotator cuff tears require more intensive care.

Ultimately, it’s important to communicate with your physician because only they can properly diagnose you and prescribe treatment.

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