Insider Tips for Easing the Pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis experts help ease what hurts.

Dorothy Foltz-Gray
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Muscle spasms
These result from inflammation that’s stirred up when a muscle is overused or injured, says rheumatologist Nathan Wei, MD, director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, MD.
Try this:
“A moist heating pad is your friend,” says Dr. Wei. “When you get a muscle spasm, put moist heat on it right away.” Leave the pad on for about 15-20 minutes. The moist heat relaxes sore, tight muscles and increases blood circulation to the area, which speeds up the healing process. Moist heating pads are available at most drugstores and online.

Back pain
“Muscle and general back pain are caused by many things, from arthritis, to long hours on your feet, to slumping over the computer,” says Nancy Beck, RN, a hospital nurse in Columbia, MO.
Try this:
“Take a 20-minute Dead Sea Salts hot bath,” says Beck. These salts contain several muscle-relaxing minerals such as magnesium and bromide. “Use one handful of salt and shower it off afterwards,” says Beck. Can’t find ’em? Epsom salts will work, too, although they contain only magnesium.

Arthritis flare-ups
On days when you overdo it, arthritis pain can rear up suddenly, notes Kenny.
Try this:
“Ice decreases pain-producing inflammatory agents,” says Kenny. Apply a bag of frozen peas or corn for no more than 15 minutes to an aching back or shoulder. “Or freeze water in a paper cup and peel it down like popsicle paper to ice round spots like shoulders, knees and heels,” she says.

April 2013