Helpful Products for People With OA
As someone who has osteoarthritis (OA), I find the array of different products and “magic solutions” overwhelming sometimes. It’s confusing to see the promise of symptomatic relief from so many sources, with so many different mechanisms and varying prices.
Ultimately, a lot of us end up doing a significant amount of trial and error before settling on a product or modality we find helpful. In my time suffering from OA I have tried out many products and found a few of them helpful.
Before I delve into what has worked for me over the years, I want to explain what criteria I use to evaluate whether a product is practical to use long-term. Here are the most relevant questions I ask myself when using the product:
- Does this product provide me adequate pain relief?
- How long does it provide pain relief?
- How much does it cost to use this product per month?
- Is the pain relief worth the price?
- How many different types of this product are there?
- How practical is it to use this product every day?
- Are there any long-term side effects of using this product?
- What are the general pros and cons of using this product?
The first category of non-pill products that have helped me is temperature therapy. This includes the soothing effects of heat and ice. Heat and ice are decent, but unfortunately limited options when it comes to alleviating pain.
Heat application is thought to ease pain by dilating the blood vessels surrounding the painful area, increasing blood flow, and helping to increase the flexibility of stiff tissues. Disposable heat pads can be found at most retailers and will last about eight to 10 hours.
When I first hurt my back, I would use a disposable heat pad every day in my rehabilitation and it was very helpful. However, as my condition progressed, heat pads didn't really help much anymore. One of the only downsides of heat pads is that they can burn your skin if left on too long.
On the other side, ice and ice packs can be very helpful for pain control. Ice is thought to partially numb the area it is applied to, helping to temporarily reduce pain. Ice also causes blood vessels to tighten, decreasing the blood flowing into the area, and that can help decrease swelling and inflammation.
Ice is always recommended for an acute injury but can also be pretty helpful for chronic pain. Applying ice onto a sore joint for about 15 to 20 minutes can have the pain-killing strength of a weak over-the-counter pain killer for up to a couple of hours.
Similar to heat pads, the main downside to ice is that it can damage your skin if applied directly for too long. Also, unlike disposable heat pads, ice is hard to bring with you to work or school because it will melt pretty quickly (believe me, I’ve tried). However, thanks to the innovations of the 21st century, we now have disposable ice packs!