Joint-pain have many forms of pain relief but risks may persist

Nearly half of people over 50 say arthritis or joint pain limits their usual activities, but many haven’t talked to a doctor about medication risks.
Popping a pill may bring short-term relief for arthritis-related joint pain, but many older adults may not realize that what they swallow could raise their risk of other health problems (Unsplash)
Popping a pill may bring short-term relief for arthritis-related joint pain, but many older adults may not realize that what they swallow could raise their risk of other health problems (Unsplash)

Popping a pill may bring short-term relief for arthritis-related joint pain, but many older adults may not realize that what they swallow could raise their risk of other health problems, or that other non-drug options could help them, a new poll suggests.

Even if they’re managing the pain on their own, people over 50 should talk to their health care providers about what they’re taking, and get advice about potential medication risks and non-medication options that could also relieve their aches and improve their movement, the poll’s authors say.

The new results from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging show that 70% of people over 50 experience joint pain at least occasionally, and 60% have been told they have some form of arthritis. Nearly half of those with arthritis symptoms said they have pain every day (45%). About half of those with joint pain say the pain limits their usual activities at least somewhat (49%), while a over a third (36%) say it interferes with their day-to-day life.

Popping a pill may bring short-term relief for arthritis-related joint pain, but many older adults may not realize that what they swallow could raise their risk of other health problems (Unsplash)
Oh, my Knee! Is the pain age-related or something else?
A sizable minority have turned to prescription-based treatments including prescription-only non-opioid pain relievers (Unsplash)
A sizable minority have turned to prescription-based treatments including prescription-only non-opioid pain relievers (Unsplash)

The poll is based at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

The vast majority (80%) of those with joint pain said they had at least some confidence they could manage it on their own. The poll shows many do so with non-prescription remedies: 66% of those with joint pain take over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. More than a quarter (26%) say they take supplements, (such as glucosamine or chondroitin) while 11% have turned to cannabidiol (CBD, derived from marijuana) and 9% use marijuana.

But a sizable minority have turned to prescription-based treatments including prescription-only non-opioid pain relievers (18%), steroid joint injections (19%), oral steroids (14%), opioids (14%) and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (4%).

These risks rise with long-term use and in people who take multiple medications or certain suppements, as well as those who drink alcohol regularly (Unsplash)
These risks rise with long-term use and in people who take multiple medications or certain suppements, as well as those who drink alcohol regularly (Unsplash)

The guidelines seek to reduce the risk that medications will affect patients’ stomach, liver, blood pressure, blood sugar, mood or sleep. These risks rise with long-term use and in people who take multiple medications or certain suppements, as well as those who drink alcohol regularly.

For osteoarthritis, which is sometimes called “wear and tear” or degenerative arthritis, the guideline emphasizes weight loss; exercise; self-management programs with arthritis educators; tai chi; yoga; braces, splints and kinesiotaping; acupuncture or acupressure; cognitive behavioral therapy and applying heat, cold or topical pain relievers on aching joints.

The poll shows 64% of those with joint pain do use exercise, and 24% have had physical therapy, which is also in the osteoarthritis guideline (Unsplash)
The poll shows 64% of those with joint pain do use exercise, and 24% have had physical therapy, which is also in the osteoarthritis guideline (Unsplash)

The poll shows 64% of those with joint pain do use exercise, and 24% have had physical therapy, which is also in the osteoarthritis guideline. But far fewer used non-drug options such as braces.

For medications, the osteoarthritis guideline focuses on short-term use of over-the-counter pain medications, in as low a dose as possible, as well as steroid joint injections in appropriate patients. But it recommends against most supplements, and against opioids and other prescription drugs because of a lack of evidence or evidence of risk. (NS/Newswise)

Popping a pill may bring short-term relief for arthritis-related joint pain, but many older adults may not realize that what they swallow could raise their risk of other health problems (Unsplash)
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