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Key points

Treatments for arthritis pain largely depend on the type of arthritis you have. Applying cold and heat to inflamed joints may help with arthritis pain. Prescription medications, physical therapy, and surgery are a few possible treatments.

An estimated one in five American adults have been diagnosed with arthritis according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Arthritis is a major cause of disability in the United States. Left untreated, it can cause:

  • chronic pain
  • stiffness
  • swelling
  • limb deformities
  • impaired range of motion

These symptoms can seriously disrupt everyday life. Learning how to live with arthritis can be difficult. However, it’s usually possible to manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Treatments for arthritis will depend on:

  • type of arthritis
  • individual health needs
  • severity of pain
  • symptoms in other body organs (extra-articular symptoms)

How lifestyle affects arthritis pain

Living a healthy life may help reduce your risk of developing certain types of arthritis. It can also reduce the severity of your symptoms.

Being overweight or obese, for example, increases the pressure on your joints. It may also contribute to generalized inflammation that can increase arthritis symptoms. Losing weight in a healthy way may help ease these symptoms.

Healthy lifestyle changes are often the first steps in managing arthritis symptoms. You should try to improve your sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet.

Exercise may be particularly useful in helping with arthritis symptoms. Low-impact exercise has been shown to:

  • improve joint mobility
  • relieve stiffness
  • reduce pain and fatigue
  • strengthen muscles and bones
“Staying in motion actually helps to keep pain away,” says Dr. Moshe Lewis, MD, MPH. Exercise, such as brisk walking, is critical in treating pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. It extends the life of your joints.