Cartilage is the smooth, cushioning tissue that protects our joints. When it wears away, it can cause the stiff, sore joints of arthritis. Most sufferers have osteoarthritis (OA), which is frequently called “wear and tear” arthritis. Another kind is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks the joint lining. Of the two types, RA can cause permanent disability.

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are a wide variety of medications that can relieve pain and inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common treatments for both kinds of arthritis. People with RA may also benefit from a class of drugs known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which suppress the immune system.

Keep Moving to Ease the Pain

Regular exercise is critical for managing arthritis. While it won’t reverse joint deterioration, it can strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints, relieving them of painful pressure. In addition, it can improve mobility, flexibility, and your overall functioning.

What kind is best? Anything low-impact, such as stretching, swimming and water workouts. For best results, aim for about 30 minutes a day. But don’t push it. If your joints still hurt two hours after exercising, you likely overdid it and should cut back next time.

Other ways to make arthritis less of a sore point in your life include:

Warm up before bedtime. If night pain is interfering with your sleep, taking a warm bath beforehand can help. Wearing socks and using a heating pad can also help muscles stay loose.

Cool it. If you experience a flare-up, using an ice pack can help reduce the swelling and inflammation. Wrapping a towel around a bag of ice cubes or frozen peas and applying it to the painful joint can also help.

Lose weight. Carrying extra weight can lead to arthritis of the knees because of the increased stress on the joints. Losing just 10 pounds can relieve each knee of about a 30-pound load with every stride you take.

Try glucosamine supplements. When taken with chondroitin, it can help decrease pain in people with mild to moderate arthritis. A combination pill totalling 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate and 1,200mg of chondroitin, taken daily, provides the most relief.

Use “arthritis-friendly” products. These include everything from fat-handled cooking and gardening implements to finger and wrist splints that can make daily tasks easier.