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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?

Mild arthritis and shoulder issues cause pains that often benefit from at-home care, says orthopedic surgeon Brett Hall, M.D.

“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

Maintaining mobility and strength is critical for treating orthopedic pain, Dr. Hall says. 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 practice their routines at home as well. 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. Get your required sets in, but take a day after that for your muscles to recover.

“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. At physical therapy sessions, staff members should also monitor you to ensure you are using correct form and technique.

Lifestyle changes for pain management and prevention

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

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

If it’s been a while since you’ve worked out, take it slow and easy. 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.

At the end of the day, it’s important to communicate with your physician, because only they can properly diagnose you and prescribe treatment.

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