Patient Care

Taking Steps to Reduce Arthritis Pain

CDC researchers suggest pharmacological and nonpharmacological options to reduce severe joint pain and how to best educate patients on these treatments.


Severe joint pain (SJP) is common in arthritis but it disproportionately affects certain groups, such as women, blacks, Hispanics, and people with comorbidities. In the US, it’s a leading cause of disability that affects nearly one quarter of adults in 2010-2012, according to data from the CDC, which also says an estimated 78 million people will have arthritis by 2040.

Related: Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

Severe joint pain can limit someone’s ability to perform basic functions, researchers note, and seriously compromise their quality of life. To find out how prevalent severe joint pain is among adults with arthritis, the CDC analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey. In 2014, approximately one fourth of adults with arthritis had SJP.

Two major objectives of the 2016 National Pain Strategy are to reduce barriers to pain care and increase patient knowledge of treatment options and risks, the researchers say. They cite the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain–United States, 2016 , for guidance on managing arthritis pain. (The CDC also currently funds arthritis programs in 12 states.)

Related: Lessons Learned From the RACAT Trial: A Comparison of Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapies

But the researchers also point out that many non-drug options exist for managing arthritis pain. For example, low-impact physical activity, such as walking, biking, and swimming is a “nonpharmacological and underused way of reducing joint pain,” they comment. They also note that community-based programs such as EnhanceFitness and Walk with Ease, as well as self-management education interventions such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, have been shown to improve health-related quality of life and confidence in managing health conditions.

Related: Reducing Opioid Use for Chronic Pain

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