Ways to manage your pain while waiting for surgery

21 February 2023
Smiling Christine in living room reading a magazine beside her crutches

We know that many of you are living with pain whilst waiting for surgery.

This wait can feel exhausting and never-ending, so to help you cope, we asked our community for their advice on managing pain. Here are their top tips: 

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Managing pain at home

There are a variety of ways you can manage your pain. Some of these might not suit you and that’s okay.

Hand holding drugs

Everyone is different, so it’s all about finding what works for you.  

There are painkillers which are available off the shelf, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which may require a prescription.  

Other things to try which can help to ease pain, include: 

  • Using a heat pad or hot water bottle 
  • Using an ice pad or cold compress. 
  • Using a TENs machine. 
  • Self-massage to stretch and ease tight muscles. Some people found using a foam roller helpful to relieve stiffness and tension.
Learn more about managing your pain

Keep moving

Staying active is important if you’re waiting for surgery. That’s because it can help to ease pain, it will make your muscles stronger and help your body to recover post-surgery.  

It will also improve your mobility, which can help with everyday movements around your home - from washing to getting dressed. 

If your doctor or physiotherapist has given you specific exercises to prepare for surgery, try to stick with these. 

Listen to your body and try to find what works for you. If walking is painful, for example, why not try something else such as swimming or chair yoga. 

If you need some extra support, you can also check out Let’s Move for Surgery.

In our brand-new surgery toolkit, you’ll find tailor-made, follow-along exercise routines for hip, shoulder and knee replacement, as well as full body workouts to help you maintain overall fitness.  

Learn more about Let's Move for Surgery

Surgery Toolkit: Why movement is so important before surgery

Eating well

Eating well and managing your weight is one of the best ways to prepare for surgery. It will also improve your recovery after surgery, boost your wellbeing and reduce the strain on your joints. 

Don’t know where to start? Get inspired for your meal planning with our range of healthy recipes and or check out our kitchen hacks.

Time to relax

If you’re in pain, don’t overdo it. Pace yourself, take the time to rest, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  

Read our everyday tips to help with jobs around the house 

Man with osteoarthritis

It’s also important to make time for the activities you enjoy and help you relax, whether that’s watching a film, gardening, listening to music, or knitting.

It’ll help you boost your mood and might help distract you from your pain.

Talk to others 

If you’re struggling with pain, it’s important to chat to people about what you’re going through. You might want to talk to a friend, family member or colleague.

Or, if you want support and advice about living with arthritis, you can join our online community, call our helpline or join our social media pages.  

If you have any questions about your surgery, ask your healthcare team. This will help you get organised and prepare for recovery.  

There are also lots of resources on our website, which will give you useful information about medication, surgery, exercise and much more.

Practice joint protection

You can make small changes to the way you do things to reduce the pain and strain on your joints. This is often called joint protection or joint care.  

This might include: 

  • Spreading the weight over several joints when carrying items.  
  • Avoiding gripping objects too tightly. 
  • Avoiding using your joints in awkward positions. 
  • Recognising your pain and pacing yourself. 
Learn more about joint protection

It's time to take action

No one should have to face long, agonising waiting times for desperately needed treatments, such as joint replacements. And we know that the cost-of-living crisis is a real concern for you and your families too. 

Versus Arthritis outside 10 Downing Street

That’s why, we handed an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him not to abandon people with arthritis.  

We asked the Prime Minister to take urgent action and: 

  • Ensure more people with arthritis can access the Warm Homes Discount Scheme by reversing changes to eligibility criteria which are making this harder.  
  • Make sure national plans to bring down waiting times for joint replacement surgery continue to be prioritised throughout the winter. 
  • Protect vital research into arthritis from the impact of rising inflation. 

We’re here whenever you need us

If you need advice or support, you can: