13 Natural Ways to Help Ease Arthritis Pain
According to the Arthritis Foundation, Arthritis affects approximately 50 million people in the United States. It is the second most frequently reported chronic condition in the country and costs the economy $128 billion annually.
Gain insight on natural ways to help ease the pain of one of the nation’s leading and most costly health ailments.
National Bone and Joint Health Week
According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis affects 1 in every 5 American adults and is the nation’s leading cause of disability.
Within 20 years, the number of those projected to be affected by this debilitating disease will greatly increase, just as the number of Americans that turn 65 grows each day.
If the trend is not reversed by 2030, an estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis – reports the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
What Helps Arthritis Pain?
Arthritis is classified as a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders with many causes, not yet fully understood – and of which there are currently no cures. Symptoms may occur in the back, knees, hips, or other joints. When joint cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone, which causes osteoarthritis, which is a very painful condition. While arthritis includes more than 100 different diseases or conditions that destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues, there are treatment options to help ease the pain with drugs like NSAIDs. It is also possible to treat the pain naturally.
Naturopathic Physician and A Place for Mom nutrition expert, Dr. Lindsay Jones-Born comments: “Diet and nutrition have the ability to affect gene expression and have a direct effect on one’s health and overall well-being. To help ease arthritis suffering, adding-in anti-inflammatory foods into one’s diet is one of the safest and most effective routes to accomplish this effect.”
In honor of National Bone and Joint Health Week, Dr. Jones-Born provides 13 tips on how to help ease arthritis pain using natural remedies:
1. Weight Loss
Losing weight is an obvious natural remedy, but it can often be difficult to accomplish because any simple movement can be painful. This may lead sufferers to want to limit any activity at all. But if you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help take the pressure off your joints and ease symptoms, including knee pain. A lack of physical activity can worsen the symptoms of arthritis, leading to increased swelling and pain.
It’s important to keep in mind that range of motion – anything from dancing, swimming, walking or gardening – can help alleviate stiffness and improve flexibility. Strengthening muscles through exercises such as lifting weights, can help support and protect joints. Endurance exercises are also beneficial as movement can help maintain the arteries and heart. Endurance exercises can improve general health and may even decrease the swelling of some joints.
2. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care focuses on physical adjustment and alignment so that joints can benefit from corrections aimed at reducing pain and stiffness. The incorporation of massage in chiropractic care can play a role in reducing stiffness, helping arthritic patients move more freely.
If you or a loved one suffers from acute lower back pain, chiropractic manipulation can break up the muscle spasm and scar tissue, helping to ease the pain. Professional chiropractic treatments, in conjunction with hot and cold presses, are a natural way to help treat muscle spasms. Many additional approaches to chiropractic care address the needs of arthritic patients, so again, check with your care provider to choose the care specific to your loved one’s needs.
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation caused by arthritis. According to Dr. Jones-Born, there is strong evidence that the omega-3s EPA and DHA can help improve endothelial function. These newly discovered substances are aptly called resolvins and protectins and may help provide arthritis relief without the side effects of conventional arthritis drugs.
Read more here about how fish can be healthy for the senior diet.
4. Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture can be effective at treating chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis. Acupuncture can help relieve pain and disability for some arthritic conditions, but not all. Acupuncture aims to treat Arthritis all over the body, not just directly over the affected area. During the acupuncture treatment, tiny needles could be placed along your loved one’s legs, arms, shoulders or wherever the practitioner determines is best to treat the condition.
The length, number, and frequency of treatments will vary among cases. Nonetheless, acupuncture is a common natural method for relieving discomfort, preventing swelling and easing arthritic inflammation.
5. Green Tea
Green tea helps to modify the epigenome to suppress inflammation, according to Dr. Jones-Born. So for people who suffer from arthritis, green tea may be able to produce chemical changes to the DNA. Green tea may also potentially produce histone proteins in an organism, which can be passed down to offspring and keep them from suffering from arthritis.
6. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy not only helps people recover from injuries and avoid surgery, but it also helps alleviate pain from chronic conditions like arthritis. Physical therapy techniques can help your loved ones strengthen muscles and gain the flexibility to help him or her with mobility and everyday life. Once again, it’s important to contact a professional physical therapist for techniques and exercises that will work best for specific cases of arthritis.
Regular exercise is a great way to alleviate arthritis. In fact, exercise is considered key to arthritis management, as mentioned above in the section on “Weight Loss.” Exercise promotes the maintenance of healthy, strong muscles, flexibility, endurance, and joint mobility. Since rest helps to lessen active joint inflammation, fatigue, and pain, it’s important to strike a balance between resting and exercise.
Resting more during active phases of arthritis and exercising more during the times when symptoms decrease is a good way to manage the condition. During days when symptoms flare-up, patients can gently exercise his or her joints. Consult your loved one’s health care provider to help you determine the best exercise routine for your loved one’s condition.
8. Vitamin C and Flavonoids
Dr. Jones-Born comments that Vitamin C and Flavonoids help to “prevent cells from oxidative damage and excessive inflammation.” By consuming a diet that incorporates the recommended daily allowance for both Vitamin C and Flavonoids, any powerful antioxidant fruit or vegetable – such as blueberries or grapes – can help ease arthritic pain and swelling.
Other sources rich in Vitamin C and Flavonoids include apples, apricots, pears, raspberries, strawberries, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans, and tomatoes.
Glucosamine is an important part of the cartilage between joint bones that is a jelly-like substance, so it’s a natural supplement for arthritis sufferers. When the cartilage between bones wears away for any reason, the bones start rubbing against each other resulting in damage and pain.
Glucosamine is available over the counter at many drug stores and provides natural anti-inflammatory relief. As with any supplement, moderation and physician consent are recommended.
Chondroitin is often used in conjunction with glucosamine to help slow or prevent the degeneration of joint cartilage, which is the underlying cause of osteoarthritis pain. Chondroitin sulfate dietary supplements are also believed to help alleviate joint pain associated with the condition.
Chondroitin is available without a prescription, but it’s important, once, again, to check with your loved one’s health practitioner.
According to Dr. Jones-Born, Proanthocyanidins have major antioxidant activity, which can help ease symptoms of arthritis.
These disease-fighting compounds can be found in purple and red foods, such as blueberries, blackberries, red and purple grapes (those with seeds have extra proanthocyanidins), cranberries, plums black currants, bilberries, cinnamon, red and kidney beans – and even red wine! Hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, and almonds are also proanthocyanidin-rich foods.
12. Capsaicin (Chili Pepper) Cream
Capsaicin cream can also relieve osteoarthritis pain, and it’s available without a prescription. The capsaicin comes from chili peppers, which gives peppers their characteristic pungency, producing mild to intense spice, which also produces heat.
Capsaicin is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes. Capsaicin used as a topical cream works to alleviate arthritis pain as it helps keep down the inflammation of the disease and helps soothe the pain.
Nobody knows exactly how capsaicin cream works, although one theory is that the cream relieves pain by depleting the nerve ending of pain-impulse-transmitting chemicals known as “substance P” and calcitonin gene-related protein.
According to Dr. Jones-Born, ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which can help ease arthritis.
Have you thought about adding a little ginger to your favorite dishes?
Easing Specific Arthritis Concerns
What Helps Arthritis in the Hands?
Arthritis in the hands can greatly limit daily activities, but fortunately, it is rare. [i] Tendinitis usually causes hand and finger pain, but when arthritis does strike, it tends to occur in the thumb and fingertip joints. Treatment is similar to that of other forms of arthritis. Medications, including NSAIDs, and physical therapy, should be tried before surgical intervention.[i]
What Helps Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints in different ways than osteoarthritis. [ii] While osteoarthritis is caused by cartilage damage, rheumatoid arthritis leads to inflammation and swelling in the lining of your joints. RA may affect many areas, including the hand, knee, shoulder, and hip. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also affect the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and eyes. While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, treatments can help relieve the pain. Medications like NSAIDs, which include over-the-counter drugs like Advil and Aleve, may temporarily relieve pain and inflammation. Prescription medications, like biologics and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD), can help prevent worsening joint damage. [ii]
In addition to medications, you can relieve symptoms with dietary changes and alternative treatments. Rheumatoid arthritis is commonly treated through acupuncture. Omega-3 fatty acids have also shown to help provide some relief from rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Has arthritis affected you or a loved one? How have you alleviated pain? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[i] Porter-Woodruff, J. (2018, December 5). How to treat arthritis in the hands. Retrieved from https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/orthopaedics-articles/2018/december/how-to-treat-arthritis-in-the-hands.
[ii] Rheumatoid arthritis. (2019, March 1). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648.
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