Recent Blog Articles

Pain Archive


Are home pain relief gadgets safe for use?

Published July 1, 2021
It’s best to talk to one’s doctor before buying a pain relief gadget. The product may not work, it may cost a lot of money, it might be dangerous, or it might encourage the user to delay medical treatment. Some high-tech pain relief devices may be effective for some people, such as a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine. And some low-tech devices may also help relieve pain, such as foam rollers, handheld massagers, and heat or cold packs.

Chronic inflammation and your joints

Published July 1, 2021
The immune system sometimes launches a chronic inflammatory response in certain joints. That leads to pain, stiffness, and joint damage known as inflammatory arthritis. It’s usually unknown what triggers the conditions. Types of inflammatory arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis. Treatments include medications, such as biologic or nonbiologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and lifestyle habits, such as exercising, avoiding processed foods, reducing stress, not smoking, and getting enough sleep. Wearing a splint or brace on affected joints and seeking physical therapy may also help ease pain.

When pain slows your new walking regimen

Updated June 1, 2021
There are lots of aches and pains that can slow down a new walking regimen. Examples include heel pain from plantar fasciitis, shin pain from spinal stenosis, and joint pain from osteoarthritis. Treatment varies, depending on the cause. Once pain has been addressed, it’s important to set realistic goals for a walking routine, starting with five or 10 minutes per day and gradually increasing the time. Doctors recommend an ultimate goal of 30 minutes of daily brisk walking.

Sickle cell disease: Ways to help teens and parents

Published May 21, 2021
Children with sickle cell disease are at higher risk for many health problems and possible complications get more serious as children grow into adults. Here are ways for parents to support teens with SCD in learning to take care of themselves.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Aches, pains, and muscle cramps — do well-advertised remedies actually work?

Published May 19, 2021

Several heavily-advertised products that are applied to the skin claim to relieve muscle or joint pain, but are not regulated by the FDA, and none of them offers any solid scientific evidence to back up their claims. So are they worth trying?

Study finds these shoes are better at keeping knee pain in check

Updated May 1, 2021

News briefs

When you have knee pain, you just want it to go away so you can walk without having to limp or wince with every step. And a small, randomized trial published online Jan. 12, 2021, by Annals of Internal Medicine found that one type of shoe might be best for the job. Researchers took 164 people ages 50 or older with moderate or severe knee arthritis and randomly assigned half of the group to wear stable, supportive shoes with thick soles that didn't bend much. The other half was assigned flat shoes with thin, flexible soles, which are believed by some to provide a benefit by allowing more natural movement of the leg and foot. Both groups wore their assigned shoes for six hours per day and took part in activities such as walking during that time. After six months, 58% of people in the stable, supportive shoe group reported a reduction in knee pain while walking, compared with 40% of people reporting pain reduction after wearing the flat, flexible shoes. In both groups, the pain reduction probably was a benefit of regular walking. The people wearing flexible shoes were also twice as likely to develop ankle or foot pain, compared with those wearing sturdy shoes. So if you have knee pain, keep walking — in sturdy shoes.

Image: © chictype/Getty Images

The 3 main options for physical rehabilitation

Updated May 1, 2021

Inpatient, outpatient, and at-home rehab all aim to restore your function and independence.

Have shoulder pain? Recovering from traumatic illness, surgery, or a bad fall? Your doctor may well recommend physical rehabilitation or physical therapy to get you back to your daily routine and the activities you love. There are several options available, depending on your needs.

1. Inpatient rehab

Inpatient rehab is prescribed after a hospital stay, when you're not well enough to go home. It offers comprehensive care from doctors, nurses, therapists, and other health professionals. There are two types of this rehab.

Take a mental break from pain

Updated April 1, 2021

Mindfulness can help soothe short-term and chronic pain.

Your mind is a powerful pain remedy when given the chance. Science continues to show how mindfulness can manage pain — and it doesn't take years to master.

"Using mindfulness is a way for older adults to treat ongoing chronic pain and the occasional flare-up without having to always rely on medication," says Ellen Slawsby, director of pain services at Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

Pain conditions are more common in women

Updated March 1, 2021

Getting a diagnosis and treatment for these conditions can be challenging.

When it comes to many common conditions that cause chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, arthritis, or lupus, it's difficult not to notice a trend. In most instances, a majority of the people diagnosed with these conditions are women, says Dr. Peter H. Schur, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a rheumatologist and co-director of the Lupus Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Not only are women disproportionately affected by conditions that cause chronic pain, but they sometimes have difficulty getting a definitive diagnosis as to what is causing their pain, and receiving appropriate treatments, says Dr. Schur.

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