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Managing Pain 2021

What you can do to manage your pain while waiting for surgery

iStock / Getty Images Plus / ma_rish

John Skinner

Vice President, British Orthopaedic Association

While waiting for surgery, it is important for patients to remain in the best shape they can, in order to achieve the best outcomes.

As we emerge from the pandemic, patients living in pain from arthritis and other bone and joint conditions have waited far longer than we would have wanted for diagnosis and treatment. Many patients will be anxious about what the future holds and uncertain as to what support is available.

The roadmap for the return of musculoskeletal services is clear. Elective surgery is resuming in nearly all parts of the country and services are being ramped up in a way that is safe for patients and staff. Behind the scenes, surgeons and other healthcare professionals are working to prioritise the patients most in need of early treatment.

In the meantime, it is important for patients to remain in the best shape they can, in order to still achieve the best outcomes from treatment.

Here are some common questions around pain management and support available:

1. How do I start making healthier choices?

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website provides excellent tips and tools to help you to start making healthier choices. There are exercise videos tailored to those with bone and joint conditions and general advice on health and wellbeing.

2. Why is my weight so important?

Being overweight puts more stress on joints. Even small amounts of weight loss can dramatically reduce the forces going through your joints and improve pain.

3. Will exercise damage my joints more?

Exercise is very unlikely to worsen joint damage. Even gentle exercise helps to maintain bone strength and to keep your heart and lungs in the best shape. It is important to try to do something every day, even if it’s just going for a short walk. For those who have had hip or knee replacement procedures cancelled, the free ‘Joint School’ app can help you to find the right exercises to do at home.

4. My painkillers aren’t working

Simple painkillers are usually most effective when taken before pain reaches crescendo and most tablets require time to work. If you’re waking at night with pain, you may benefit from taking a tablet last thing at night, even if not in pain at the time. Work with your doctor or pharmacist to find the best regimen for you and your lifestyle.

5. Don’t forget mental wellbeing

Mind has excellent resources to help you take charge of your mental wellbeing. They even have resources specific to COVID-19 and explain how mental health and physical activity interact.

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