If you have never had gout it is almost impossible to understand how badly it hurts, and how much it can affect your life. I know that when I used to suffer recurrent attacks it was impossible to explain just how much it hurt! But as a result I now have a lot of experience on how to treat gout, plus some insights on how to make sure it stays away.
Unfortunately, many people who get this condition will get it over and over again, which is really quite a shame. Why so I say that? Well mainly because it is largely avoidable. It doesn’t have to be a recurring problem. If you take the time to learn how to treat it, and take charge of the problem rather than allowing it to get worse, then you don’t have to suffer from this disease.
You are probably here because you, or someone close, has gout pain right now, so getting rid of your initial pain is your main priority right now. Here’s some of the things that helped me treat it in the acute phase, and I will go into some longer-term strategies further down.
Briefly – here are my key strategies:
2) Rest & Raise
3) Tightly Bandage
4) Consider anti-inflammatory drugs (or natural alternatives)
Ice is a very effective way to treat gout pain
Your first priority will be to reduce the amount of swelling and pain. Something that I personally found to be very effective was to ice the joint. You can buy special gel packs for the freezer that are ideal, but honestly even a packet of frozen vegetables will do a very good job. Be careful not to apply the cold directly to the skin as it can stick. Instead put a layer of cloth between the skin and the ice pack. Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, and repeat every 2 hours.
Note that this is a little controversial though. It seems that colder temperatures help uric acid crystals precipitate out of the bloodstream, so some people think that icing the joint is just encouraging further attacks. But in my experience this particular gout treatment provides instant pain relief, and helps reduce swelling too.
Rest and raise the affected joint to reduce the pain.
Try to rest the joint. If you have gout in your toe or elsewhere in your feet, try not to move around too much. You don’t want to be putting more strain on the joint than you have to. I used to find that the best position was to lay down on the couch with my foot up on the end of the couch. Usually with my ice pack on the joint. The theory about raising the joint up higher than the level of your heart is to help reduce the swelling. Not moving around is just common sense. It allows the body to rest and concentrating on getting rid of it, but it also allows your mind some time-out from dealing with the pain.
Tightly bandage the joint.
This is a treatment that I have not seen mentioned on many websites, but it is one that I have personally found to be very effective. I “stole” the concept from the treatment guidelines for soft tissue injury but it seemed to work for my condition as well.
A compression bandage tightly wound around the joint always provided me with pain relief. It also helps control the swelling.
Tie the bandage tightly, but not too tight. If your toes begin to turn blue – then the bandage is too tight! (Don’t laugh – I’ve done it!) Compression bandages are actually designed to hold you quite firmly even if you don’t strap them on very tightly. There is no need to pull them very tight, just be firm. Use a criss-cross pattern when wrapping the bandage on, rather than just going around the foot or ankle. This provides extra support.
Anti-inflammatories can help too. But be careful of your stomach. Avoid aspirin.
I used to take anti-inflammatory drugs when I got gout. My personal favorite was Diclofenac (Voltaren), but there are many non-steroidal anti-inflammatories available. One of the potential side effects of many of these drugs is an upset stomach or even damage to the stomach lining. So always be careful about this. Some foods have anti-inflammatory effects. In particular a lot of people use cherries to treat it.
Many people take aspirin to relieve their pain, but that is a serious mistake. While aspirin can help with fever and pain, it can also increase the levels of uric acid in your body. Choose other pain relief instead.
Treating gout – longer term strategies.
As mentioned above, treating gout in the short term is fine, but you do have to be really careful about managing your risks of gout over the long term.
One of the most effective ways of treating it is to be very diligent about what you eat. Your food choices need to be low in fat, full of fiber, contain good carbs, and be low in fructose. There are many food items that you can enjoy including chicken, fish, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and more.
There are actually two schools of thought when it comes to choosing foods when trying to avoid attacks. One school warns to stay clear of high purine foods, while another touts the importance of an alkaline diet. Actually there is a third school of thought too, and that is to simply lose weight to reduce the chances of getting the condition.
Different foods affect people in different ways. Some people find that if they eat a lot of high-fructose foods – and that includes some types of fruit – then they get an attack. Personally this has never happened to me. I’ve heard of people associating sunflower seeds with gout too. Again that doesn’t affect me. However do try and take note of what you ate before an attack as you might be able to discern a pattern and find foods that you need to avoid.
Drinking enough water will help you to stay hydrated and to flush the uric acid from your body. Drink a lot of water even when you don’t have it. It’s extremely important to your overall health.
Drinking alcohol on the other hand can be very detrimental if you have this condition. It is thought that alcohol inhibits the excretion of uric acid from the body and so, aside from all the other bad things alcohol does to your body, this is a good reason to cut out or cut back your alcohol consumption.
Your first priority is to treat gout pain and inflammation. But once you have made it past the acute phase, make sure to be aware that you are probably not home free. Take a good look at your overall lifestyle and diet. If you are overweight or eat a lot of unhealthy, processed, fatty foods, then you really do have to change. Otherwise you will be one of the people who needlessly suffer repeatedly from the pain of attacks.
Take this long term approach to treating your condition, and you can be free from it forever.