The pain of arthritis can make even mundane daily tasks feel like insurmountable obstacles. That's why pain management is a key part of arthritis treatment. While medications can be a powerful aid to reducing pain, relying on medication alone is less effective than putting together a comprehensive pain management plan. And medications can have side effects as well, from the stress anti-inflammatory pain relievers put on the liver to the risk of building tolerance or addiction to opioid painkillers.

The more angles you can attack your pain from, the better. Non-pharmacological pain management can reduce the amount of medications you need to take, which also reduces the side effects and potential risks. Here are a few things you should be sure to try in an arthritis pain management plan.


Strengthening your muscles can help lower the strain on your joints. Exercising with arthritis can be difficult, however. It's important to build up your exercise gradually; forget the mantra of "no pain, no gain" and focus on finding things you can enjoy doing such as walking, tai chi, or yoga. Aquatic exercises such as pool walks or water aerobics are another good way to reduce the strain of exercise. 


Arthritis can be exhausting. Fatigue is a common symptom, and the side effects of painkillers can make it even worse. That's why it's important to stay well-rested. Part of this is staying flexible in your plans; if you're having a bad day and can't make it to a commitment, don't feel guilty about it. Instead, do what's right for you – which might mean withdrawing from that commitment to spend the day resting instead.

Your support network is also helpful here. Rely on friends and family to help you out on those days when you don't have the energy to get things done yourself. If you don't have a support network like this, talk to your doctor about whether your insurance might cover occasional home care help.


Massage is a popular way to reduce both pain and stress. Lowering your stress can help you sleep better as well as give you more energy throughout the day. And a massage appointment can also be an enjoyable treat when you're not feeling well, brightening up the rest of your day.


According to the Arthritis Foundation, multiple studies have shown that acupuncture can be an effective way to manage the pain of arthritis. Acupuncture needles – and newer electroacupuncture – can cause the body to release endorphins, a natural painkiller. The treatment also changes the way the brain reacts, with deep acupuncture reducing the brain's awareness of pain elsewhere in the body.