9 Natural Remedies for Arthritis
Arthritis refers to a range of conditions that involve pain and inflammation in the joints.
There are two types of arthritis include osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
OA is a degenerative condition, which means the symptoms tend to worsen over time. OA mainly results when wear and tear of cartilage cause bones to rub together, leading to friction, damage, and inflammation.
RA is a systemic condition that triggers symptoms throughout the body. It’s an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammatory flares and happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue.
There are hundreds of commercially pharmaceutical drugs available. However, many people do not get the results from these drugs that they are hoping for. If you're in between doctor visits (where you would no doubt be asking for a custom compound prescription o target specific areas of pain and inflammation) you may want to consider some natural remedies to relieve arthritis pain and swelling.
This blog discusses some of the best ways to naturally reduce inflammation and arthritis pain. **Please keep in mind, it is always recommended to talk to your doctor before trying any remedy for arthritis, whether it involves medication or not.**
1) Follow a Healthy Diet
There’s some evidence that dietary choices can affect people with both RA and OA. A diet that’s rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods can help you in more ways than one. For this instance I will bring up that it can a) help boost your immune system and your overall health and b) a plant-based diet provides antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation by eliminating free radicals from the body.
However, a diet rich in red meat, processed foods, saturated fat, and added sugar and salt may aggravate inflammation which is a characteristic of arthritis. In addition, these foods can also contribute to other health conditions, including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other complications, so they’re likely not beneficial for people with arthritis.
Current OA guidelines do not recommend taking vitamin D or fish oil supplements as a treatment, but consuming foods containing these nutrients as part of a balanced diet may contribute to overall well-being.
Add Turmeric to Your Dishes
Yes, you’ve likely heard about this amazing root many times. Though did you know that turmeric is full of anti-inflammatory properties? Research suggests it may help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. Turmeric, the yellow spice common in Indian dishes, contains a chemical called curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
More research is needed to show how turmeric works, but adding a small amount of this mild but tasty spice to your dinner is likely to be a safe option!
Pineapple is full of an enzyme called bromelain, which has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Pineapple also happens to be great for boosting kidney health, as well as increasing bone density and ridding the body of parasites.
The anti-inflammatory nature of ginger has been known for centuries. Studies suggest that ginger works by inhibiting CO-X2, which is a pro-inflammatory enzyme. A study involving patients who were given 225 mg twice daily noted reduced pain in 63% of the patients receiving ginger supplements compared to 50% receiving placebo.
Though it would be difficult to consume this much ginger without taking a supplement, being aware of gingers anti-inflammatory properties and incorporation it into your diet isn't going to hurt!
Cherries (tart cherry juice)
Among the best natural remedies for arthritis are cherries. This tasty fruit is full of anthocyanosides, plant pigments that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center have found that patients who consumed two 8-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice (amounting to approximately 45 cherries) daily for 6 weeks experienced a huge improvement in pain, stiffness, and physical function. Study participants also showed a marked decrease in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation.
Chia, Flax, and Hemp Seeds
Foods that are high in Omega 3s are extremely good for controlling arthritis flare-ups naturally. Though you can also get your Omega 3s from fish, it is increasingly difficult to find wild-caught or sustainably farmed fish that isn’t tainted!
Chia, flax, and hemp seed are all full of the same essential fatty acids which not only improve joint functioning, but also boost brain power and act as a vital nutrient for growing bodies. Omega 3s help us when we are young, and help us when we are old, who knew!?
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
What doesn’t ACV do?! This fermented apple concoction made from organic apples contains special enzymes that promote healing in the body in numerous ways. Arthritis is often caused by the lack of proper minerals in the body. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus are essential in relieving joint pain, and guess what, ACV is full of them all!
ACV also restores the body to its proper pH level, and is full of antioxidants like beta-carotene and acetic acid which produce almost miraculous effects in easing arthritis pain. In case you don’t already know, apple cider vinegar cures are said to be nearly endless.
2) Consider Herbal Supplements
Many herbal supplements may reduce joint pain, although scientific research hasn’t confirmed that any specific herb or supplement can treat arthritis.
Some of these herbs include:
bromelain (enzyme in pineapple, mentioned above)
thunder god vine
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor herbs and supplements for quality, purity, or safety, so you cannot be sure exactly what a product contains. Be sure to buy from a reputable source and to consult your doctor or pharmacist before trying a new supplement, as some can cause side effects and dangerous drug interactions.
3) Manage Weight
The best remedy—maintaining a healthy weight, and losing weight, if necessary—is not the easiest.
Still, accoridng to Laura Robbins, senior vice president of education and academic affairs at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, for every pound shed, is 4 pounds less pressure on your knees.
Your weight can have a big impact on arthritis symptoms. Extra weight puts more pressure on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and feet.
Guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation (ACR/AF) strongly recommend losing weight if you have OA and are overweight..
Your doctor can help you set a target weight and design a program to help you reach that target.
Reducing the stress on your joints by losing weight can help:
improve your mobility
prevent future damage to your joints
Physical activity is essential for people with osteoarthritis, whether it means walking around your apartment if you’re a fragile older person or swimming laps if you’re in better shape.
People used to think that exercise made arthritis worse, but the opposite is true—unless you’re pounding the pavement. (Runners with knee osteoarthritis should cut down on mileage, try to cross-train, and run on softer surfaces like tracks and dirt paths.)
Exercise programs should include both aerobic exercise—like walking, swimming, or biking—and strengthening exercises, such as isometric and isotonic exercises.
If you have arthritis, exercise can help you:
manage your weight
keep your joints flexible
strengthen muscles around your joints, which offers more support
Current guidelines strongly recommend starting an appropriate exercise program. Exercising with a trainer or another person may be especially beneficial, as it increases motivation.
Good options include low-impact exercises, such as:
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on your body. Practitioners say it works by rerouting energies and restoring balance in your body. Many people find that acupuncture helps relieve pain and disability due to arthritis; several studies have found benefit from the procedure, though, it doesn't help everyone.
Acupuncture may reduce arthritis pain, and the ACR/AF conditionally recommends it and while there’s not enough evidence to confirm its benefits, the risk of harm is considered low.
**Be sure to find a licensed and certified acupuncturist to carry out this treatment.**
6) Topical Remedies
Strong-smelling mentholated rubs and creams may temporarily make your skin tingle, but many have limited value for osteoarthritis.
However, there are some creams now available that have proven benefit:
a) Diclofenac gel, sold in the U.S. as Voltaren Gel has just recently become available without a prescription. This is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can ease osteoarthritis pain in the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, wrists, and hands.
b) Capsaicin cream can also relieve osteoarthritis pain, and it’s available without a prescription. This cream is made from the substance that gives chili peppers their heat. Nobody knows exactly how it 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. Any other theories out there?
6) Hot Cold Therapy
The mention of Capsaicin brings us to the use of heat, and cold treatments, to help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation.
Capsaicin, which comes from chili peppers (mentioned above), is a component of some topical ointments and creams that you can buy over the counter. These products provide warmth that can soothe joint pain
Heat treatments can include taking a long, warm shower or bath in the morning to help ease stiffness and using an electric blanket or moist heating pad to reduce discomfort overnight.
Cold treatments can help relieve joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. Wrap a gel ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and apply it to painful joints for quick relief. **Never apply ice directly to the skin.**
7) Meditation to Cope with Pain
Anxiety, stress, and depression are all common complications of conditions that involve chronic pain, such as arthritis. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies have found that practicing mindfulness meditation is helpful for some people with RA.
Meditation and relaxation techniques may help reduce the pain of arthritis by lowering stress and enabling you to cope with it better. Reducing stress may also help lower inflammation and pain. The ACR/AF recommend tai chi and yoga. These combine meditation, relaxation, and breathing techniques with low-impact exercise.
Electrical energy can be used to help ease pain and swelling in arthritic joints in a couple of different ways:
a) Physical therapists often employ transcutaneous electrostimulation, or TENS, which involves placing electrodes around the affected joint and delivering electromagnetic pulses through the skin.
b) Electroacupuncture, in which the provider uses needles at acupuncture points that are attached to electrodes to pass an electric charge through the acupuncture needles.
There’s some evidence that both approaches can help provide at least short-term pain relief and also ease joint stiffness.
9) Assistive Devices
Shoe inserts, canes, splints, braces, and other devices can be helpful redistribute your weight to take the load off an arthritic joint or hip and prevent arthritis from getting worse.