Practical tips for gout

Many people learnt how to recognise an attack starting before it was at its worst. They described the first signs as ‘twinges’, ‘tweaks’ or ‘tingles’, a distinctive ‘feeling’ or ‘sensation’, ‘stiffening’ in the joint, or a ‘dull feeling’. Most found that their medication was most effective if they took it as soon as they noticed these signs. They also often started to drink more water. Ian discovered that moving round during an attack helped him to recover more quickly.
People often found it useful to keep a supply of medication at home so that they could take it as soon as they noticed the signs of an attack starting. Others carried medication with them at all times or when they went on holiday. Paula asked her doctor to prescribe some colchicine for her to take away on holiday in case she had an attack. Val found it inconvenient having to go back every month for more allopurinol tablets. She asked her GP to prescribe her enough for two months at a time so she did not have to go back so often (for more see ‘Treating the pain and inflammation of gout attacks’ and ‘Long-term treatment to lower uric acid and prevent gout attacks and long-term problems’).

Cooling the affected joint with ice was helpful for many people during attacks. Joe’s wife used to get him a large bowl of ice for him to put his foot in. Ben used a bag of frozen peas.
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Some people found that resting worked best for them. They would take their medication and then wait until the pain went. A few found it helpful to keep the affected joint raised. John had a knee brace made of thick material and this helped to keep his knee still and reduce the pain. People who found it difficult sleeping or getting comfortable in bed often chose to sit on a chair or sofa instead. They often watched television to distract or occupy themselves.

Vic found it easier to use his good foot to push up on when he had to go upstairs. Alan found that riding a bicycle was easier than trying to walk. This was useful when he needed to get to see his doctor. Many people we spoke to found it helpful to use a walking stick or crutches if they had attacks in their toes, feet, ankles or knees. Eddie keeps his walking stick next to his bed in case he gets an attack (for more see ‘Gout: mobility and footwear’). 
When people had attacks that affected their feet, they were often unable to wear their normal shoes. Several found it useful to buy a bigger pair of shoes, flip flops or slippers that could be worn during attacks. Others found it too painful to wear a sock or anything else on their foot. Gerald had special shoes made at the hospital. People often found it too uncomfortable to have bed sheets touching their joint. They tried putting things like pillows either side of the affected joint so they could keep the duvet away from it. 
Gerald and Hazel both have attacks regularly. They had chosen to move to accommodation that was all on one level to make things easier. Gerald (with help from Social Services) had arranged for his chairs to be raised to help him sit down more easily. He had also got a walk-in shower and wet room. Sam’s employers provided her with a new desk chair and other equipment to make her more comfortable at work. Jill’s gout affects her hands. She tried gadgets from the hospital to help her open bottles and jars but they did not help. She puts anything that needs opening on her front windowsill so that her neighbour can see and come round and help.
Jill often found that her balance was affected. She used to bump into things when she moved round her house. Ben was also aware of bumping his foot. He found it useful to clear away anything that might get in the way, and to turn the lights on at night if he was getting up to go to the toilet or to get a drink. Other people were cautious about friends or relatives getting too close to them because they were afraid that they might accidentally knock their joint. (For more see ‘Messages for other people with gout’). 

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Last reviewed December 2016


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