Your experience with inflammation and stiffness will be important in helping your doctor pin down the type and extent of arthritis. Before visiting the doctor, keep track of your symptoms for a few weeks, noting what is swollen and stiff, when, for how long, and what helps ease the symptoms.

If the doctor suspects arthritis, he will perform tests to check the range of motion in your joints, asking you to move the joint back and forth. The doctor may also check passive range of motion by moving the joint for you. Any pain during a range of motion test is a possible symptom of arthritis.

Treating inflammation and stiffness can involve medicine, both prescription or over-the-counter, and other methods. Follow your doctor’s instructions, but here is some general advice:

No medicine required

Applying heat or cold to affected joints is one of the easiest ways to relieve arthritis pain and stiffness on a short-term basis. Heat relaxes muscles and increases circulation in specific areas. Some examples of heat are hot packs, heating pads, heated pools, and warm showers.

Cold reduces swelling and numbs the nerves that detect pain. Some examples of cold are ice packs or cold packs such as frozen vegetables.

You can decide whether warm or cold works best for you by trying them both.  Do what is most comfortable because your comfort plays an important role in keeping your pain at a low level.

Neither heat nor cold should be applied for more than 20 minutes, and skin should be allowed to return to its normal temperature between applications. It’s also always a good idea to cover the object you’re using with a towel to help protect your skin.

Over-the-Counter Medicines

Acetaminophen is an aspirin-free pain reliever. It helps reduce pain but has little effect on inflammation. Many healthcare providers consider aspirin-free pain relievers the preferred first choice in treating mild to moderate arthritis.

Another type of oral medication is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS),. These help reduce both pain and joint swelling. NSAIDS may cause stomach problems and other complications. Some are available only by prescription. Some examples are: Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.