2. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

What it is: TENS involves hooking up to a pocket-sized, portable machine that sends electrical current to painful spots, via wires attached to electrodes placed on the skin.

How it works: “Pain is carried on small fibers called C fibers,” says Girish Padmanabhan, clinical director of outpatient rehab at The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. “But other sensations are carried by larger fibers. The sensation of the current is transmitted through the larger fibers, which supersedes the smaller fibers,” essentially shutting out the pain. “The electrical current also stimulates the nervous system, possibly stimulating the brain to release endorphins and enkephalins, opiate-like substances that relieve pain.”

Pain it works well for: “TENS is effective in treating any kind of arthritis pain – in treating pain, period,” says Padmanabhan.

Risks: You can’t use it if you have a pacemaker, infection or open wounds.

3. The right shoes

What they are: Well, we all know what shoes are. But according to a 2010 study on 31 people with osteoarthritis at Rush Medical College in Chicago, researchers found that flat, flexible shoes like flip-flops and sneakers (Puma H-Street shoes were used in the study) reduced the force exerted on knee joints by 11 to 15 percent compared with clogs and special walking shoes.

How they work: “Higher [force] on the knee joints is associated with pain,” says lead author and rheumatologist Najia Shakoor, MD. “So, if you exert less [force], you should have less pain.” In fact, she is six months into a new study showing, so far, a 46 percent pain reduction among those wearing flexible shoes.

Pain they work well for: Wearing flexible shoes may best relieve pain from osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee and perhaps the hip.

Risks: Despite the study findings, Dr. Shakoor hastens to say that flip-flops can cause other problems like plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the connective tissue along the bottom of the foot. And they can put people with osteoarthritis at greater risk for falls. “Flat, flexible, closed shoes with arch support are a good choice,” she adds.

4. Steroid injection

What it is: Steroids, or corticosteroids, such as cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone, are synthetic versions of the hormone cortisol, which reduces inflammation.

How it works: A doctor injects a steroid directly into a joint to calm inflammation, says Allen D. Boyd Jr., MD, chief of Adult Reconstructive Surgery and Total Joint Replacement at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

Pain it works well for: “A steroid injection will make almost anyone [with inflammatory joint pain] feel better for days or months or longer,” says Dr. Boyd. “It’s good for anyone with inflammatory arthritis and can be used across the board, including for juvenile arthritis (JA).”

Risks: You can repeat a steroid shot two to three times a year, Dr. Boyd says. More than that may make the ligaments and tendons more fragile, and they can rupture. And there is some small risk of infection with any injection.