Hesperian Health Guides

Managing pain

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 5: Taking care of your body > Managing pain


a woman sitting with a hot cloth over her legs

Some disabilities, such as arthritis, cause pain in the muscles or joints. Sometimes women have pain in a particular part of their body. Or they may hurt all over. There are several things you can try to help ease pain.

Heat is usually best for sore, stiff joints and muscles. Soak cloths in hot water and place them on the painful areas. The water should be hot enough for you to be able to hold your hand in it comfortably. Otherwise, you may burn your skin.

Cold is usually best for inflamed joints or injuries. You can often tell when an area is inflamed because it will feel hot and may be red and swollen. Wrap ice in a cloth or a towel and place it on the painful areas. Do not put the ice directly on your skin. After 10 or 15 minutes, take the ice pack off and let your skin warm up. When your skin is warm, you can use the ice again.

Try to rest the area that hurts. Do not stress the muscles or joints, and try to avoid heavy work or overuse that strains the hurting place.

Gentle movement often helps the pain. Here are some ideas to keep your joints and muscles moving in ways that soothe the pain:

  • Rub the painful areas gently.
  • Stretch your muscles gently.
  • Have someone massage your muscles.
  • Swim or move around in clean, warm water.


A pain medicine such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) can help with the pain but will not reduce swelling. Aspirin and ibuprofen help control pain and reduce swelling in the joints. Look up these medicines in the Green Pages for more information on pain relief.

IMPORTANT! If your ears start to ring, or you start to bruise easily, take less aspirin.

If you are taking aspirin or ibuprofen because your joints are swollen, keep taking the medicine even after the pain starts to go away, until the joints are less swollen. Do not take both aspirin and ibuprofen within 4 hours of each other.