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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer


Our Voices Blog

6 ways to manage joint pain

Joint pain is often a side effect of breast cancer medications, especially tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, which people are often prescribed for years. If you happen to be someone who experiences this, you know that it can range from being mildly annoying to having a debilitating effect on your daily life. People often say they feel like they’re 100 years old. There isn’t one solution that will work for everyone, so it’s helpful to explore a variety of options and find what works best for you.

Here are 6 different ways you can tackle joint pain:

  1. Diet
    For some people this may make no difference, but for others it can be life changing when it comes to managing inflammation and joint pain. For people looking for solutions without having to take additional medications, this may be an option worth exploring. Foods that contain sugar, trans fats and saturated fats, gluten, aspartame, MSG, refined carbohydrates, and omega 6 fatty acids may cause inflammation or be contributing to your joint pain. If food is a trigger for your pain, it usually is a matter of trial and error to figure out which ones are the culprits. Doing an elimination diet, may help you determine whether or not certain foods affect you. Some people have experienced tremendous success by making certain changes in their diet.
  2. Exercise
    Studies have shown that exercise can reduce joint paint that’s specifically caused by aromatase inhibitors. Women who participated in a year-long exercise program that combined strength training with aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, reported a 29% reduction in pain that interfered with their daily life. Being more active doesn’t necessarily mean having to go to a gym every day, although if you love the gym then go for it. People who get their exercise through activities that they enjoy are more likely to stick with it. Maybe going for a brisk walk also allows you to enjoy nature, take some time to clear your head or reflect on the day. Perhaps doing yoga in your living room allows you to strengthen your body while calming your mind. Or you can catch up on your favorite show while working on strength training. Find out more about exercising safely after a breast cancer diagnosis here.
  3. Acupuncture
    This complementary medical practice uses thin needles placed at various points on the body to help alleviate certain symptoms. Studies have shown that acupuncture can help with pain relief for joint pain. An added bonus is that you may find that this also helps with other side effects such as hot flashes. If you decide to try acupuncture it’s important that the treatment is given by a qualified professional who uses single-use (disposable) needles.
  4. Glucosamine and Chondroitin
    Studies have shown that taking glucosamine and chondroitin can sometimes improve joint pain without having additional side effects. Glucosamine is naturally found in the fluid that surrounds your joints and chondroitin is in the cartilage around your joints. By taking these supplements you may increase the cushioning and lubrication of your joints which could reduce the pain you’re feeling. Prior to taking any supplement, you should always speak to your health care team to ensure that you’re taking the proper dose and that it’s not going to interact in a negative way with anything else you’re taking.
  5. Medication
    If you are open to taking additional medications your primary care physician may be able to prescribe something to help manage your joint pain. It’s important to bring up all side effects you’re having with your health care team so that they can provide with you with all your options and you can make an informed choice about what is best for you. Some women decide that they would rather try other options to manage their joint pain before they take additional medication because they’ve already taken a lot of medication to treat their cancer. Others are willing to try whatever will help manage their debilitating pain. It’s a personal choice and only you can decide what’s best for you.
  6. Changing Treatments
    Everyone reacts differently to medications and sometimes changing your treatment may lessen or resolve certain side effects. If you are unable to find a solution to managing your joint pain, ask your doctor whether there are other treatments you can try that are just as effective but may lessen your side effects. It can’t hurt to ask.

Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

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  • Jan 10, 2018, 12:00 AM

    I was not prepared for the number of decisions regarding treatment that needed to be made from cancer diagnosis to treatment options.  It was both exhausting and overwhelming – how does one make sound life-changing decisions when there are so many options and choices? I learned to trust myself and be my own advocate as I navigated through the many decision points.