Joint pain is a difficult animal to manage when you have IBD. We’re unable to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), which are your basic aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Aleeve, and Motrin). These are known to eat at your stomach lining and worsen the intestinal bleeding. Acetaminophen is better to take, but you also have to watch how much you take in order to avoid liver damage. Whether it is over-the-counter or prescription, pain medicine is hard to figure out when it’s worth taking it. I may be different, but I’m always worried I might become dependent on it. Or worse, come off as a pill popping hypochondriac.
This is a list of tips for managing or relieving low to moderate joint pain without pain medicine. I’d say from a 2 to a 7 on the pain scale. Here’s an illustration of my favorite pain scale to refer to.
Pain is a very relative thing, sadly. Your 7 might be my 5, or vice versa. My personal 10/11 is having an 8 mm kidney stone stuck inside you and none of your nurses know what to do with you. Although I’m pretty sure I told one nurse that I was at an 8.
Although, if you feel anything higher than a 7 at all, you probably should see an actual doctor. Here’s the list now.
- Maybe shed a few pounds if you can?
If you’re experiencing joint pain, especially for the first time, you may have recently gained weight and lost muscle. There’s no need to beat yourself up for it, your body is already doing that for you. Swimming or bike riding are great low impact exercises to start off with. Also, the best diet to take is to just space out your meals and give yourself smaller portions. Don’t supersize it.
- Wrap it up
Wrapping up the joint can help secure it and help it feel protected. You have to be really careful with ace bandages, especially the ones you have to wrap. You might wrap it too tight and cause swelling. Find a friend (or a kinesiology major) who knows how to wrap joints and have them teach you how to do it properly.
You overexerting yourself is the reason why you’re here, you big silly. The oldest punchline in the book to the oldest joke of “It hurts when I do this *flails arm*” is “Stop doing that then.” Laying in bed or on the couch and wrapping yourself up like a giant bean burrito and watch Netflix is the main way to go. Maybe also taking a little extra melatonin (which can be found in a pharmacy) will knock you out for a couple hours’ nap. Make sure to move around every once in a while to make sure your joints don’t get stiff.
- Heat and Ice
I’ve had several people ask me in the past, them knowing my personal history with injuries and figure skating, about when to use heat and when to use ice for injuries and joint pain. I realized just now that I’ve never actually written it down. You always start off with ice, then heat. I always want to reach for my heating pad first, but it’s really important that you use ice first. The ice brings down any inflammation and swelling, which actually prevent the healing process from starting. These things eventually go away on their own, but it’s a lot slower. Also, if you use heat before most of the inflammation and swelling is gone, it’ll actually irritate it and make it worse.
You can use heat whenever you have general muscle pain or soreness. Heating pads are my best friend when I have period cramps and lower back soreness. And now to segway into my next point…
Hot baths are a gift from heaven above. They really help with soreness and muscle aches. They’re also a good option to stay clean when you’re low on spoons. The only part that I hate is that I often forget to turn up the heat a little bit before I get in so getting out won’t be as cold. Adding Epsom salt (which can also be found at any pharmacy) and soaking in it can really relax stiff muscles and joints. If you just had a heavy workout, it’s good for reducing the lactic acid buildup on your muscles. I used to use it myself during my skating days. This is a great time to massage out your hands and feet, too. But you’re not limited to just that. Adding different kinds of bath salts and bath bombs are also a great option. I’ve never used a bath bomb, but I’ve always found the pictures of them and their results very pretty. I recommend Lush products. I’ve only ever heard good things about their stuff.
- Don’t ignore your pain!
Pace yourself, don’t push yourself. If you’re someone who’s young like me, you may feel compelled to try to keep up with everyone else. I’m always having to tell myself to slow down, but it’s usually my body who tells me first. I don’t know any other “natural” remedies like eating a certain kind of flower or walking backwards while contemplatively sipping on green tea, but I know that if none of the easy home remedies I listed above relieves your pain, you should really talk to a doctor about it. It may even be an underlying injury that you have.