Arthritis is staggeringly common, with around 1 in 4 American adults suffering from the condition. While we tend to think of it as a single disease, it’s actually a cluster of symptoms (other than arthritic autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis). But regardless of the underlying diagnosis, it often presents with pain, reduced range of motion, stiffness, and swelling.
The good news is that there are proven ways to find natural pain relief for arthritis. Simple lifestyle changes can help you manage your pain. From dietary changes and appropriate physical activity to mind-body approaches, supplementation and physical therapy, there are options to fit your preference and budget. First, let’s review what arthritis is. Then we’ll offer 5 tips to help you get some relief.
What is the Difference Between Common & Autoimmune Arthritis?
Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joint(s). The symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, intermittent or ever-present, and can worsen gradually or in leaps and bounds. Osteoarthritis is a more common form of arthritis, which usually has a slow progression.
When osteoarthritis is present, it tends to present as a single damaged joint, like a hip or a knee. As the article Epidemiology of Posttraumatic Osteoarthritis noted, it “… is characterized by degeneration of the articular cartilage and subchondral bone.” In essence, osteoarthritis degrades the protective lining of the joint and eats into the bone below. This often causes pain and stiffness and, over time, can lead to disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can rear its ugly head within weeks to months, and it arises from a different cause to osteoarthritis. It is autoimmune in nature. The body attacks its own tissues. In RA, the joint lining is targeted by the immune system, which sees its own
tissues are foreign. This, too, results in inflammation and joint destruction.
However, rheumatoid arthritis tends to favor the small joints, like those in the hands. It is symmetrical, which means that if one knee or hand is affected, usually the other one is too. RA causes the involved joints to feel tender to touch and hot. It can also cause
significant joint deformity.
*If you think you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should speak to your family doctor or
5 Tips to Help You Mitigate Your Arthritis Symptoms
As we said before, lifestyle changes are key to getting a handle of your arthritis pain. And they are simpler than you may think.
1. Get Moving to Lubricate Those Joints for Arthritis Pain Relief
The first thing you need to do is MOVE. It may seem counterintuitive when you are in pain and feeling stiff, but moving will actually help you. Exercising helps keep your joints lubricated. It doesn’t mean that you need to head to the gym. Physical activities like walking, hydrotherapy, and strength training can help you keep your affected joints moving, provide strength and support, and ease the fatigue commonly experienced with chronic pain. If you have arthritis in your hands, try these simple hand exercises for pain relief.
2. Consider Dietary Changes to Support Your Joint, Muscle, and Cartilage Function
A healthy diet is also imperative to your overall health — from the foods you eat to drinking adequate water. Dietary changes can reduce inflammation and obesity, both important aspects for calming arthritis. You can add foods to your diet.
• Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Fish, fish oil, seaweed, algae, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, edamame, and kidney beans are all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids can support a healthy muscle, joint, and cartilage function.
• Eat whole berries. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries have been shown to give you the antioxidants you need to support your overall wellbeing.
• Add turmeric (curcumin) to your dishes. Research has shown that curcumin supports strong bones, joints, and muscles; thus it is the latest craze in the workout community. Curry dishes are the easiest way to go in recipes, but you can also make turmeric lattes and much, much more. Try our recipe below and tell us what you think.
• Drink green tea. Research has suggested that daily intake of green tea can support your bone and joint function due to its high flavonoid content.
If you want to try a delicious recipe, try a Turmeric Green Tea Chai Latte!
Turmeric Green Tea Chai Latte Recipe
• 1 cup soymilk, coconut milk, or almond milk
• 3 cups water
• ¼ tsp of turmeric
• 1 cinnamon stick
• ½ – 1 inch of fresh, sliced ginger
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• 5 whole cloves
• 3 cardamom pods
• Sweetener (Coconut sugar or maple syrup) to taste
1. Smash up the cloves, cardamom pods, and black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or what even the back of a spoon.
2. Bring all of the ingredients except for the sweetener to a boil on medium-high heat.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low for 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
5. Strain the tea with a tea strainer or your regular pasta colander.
6. Add to your favorite much and sweeten to taste.
If you are not interested in making homemade teas, you can also take supplements. You can purchase herbal supplements at your local pharmacy, health food store, or generic grocery store. Your primary care physician can also prescribe you supplements to ensure
that you get the ones you need.• Curcumin supplements may reduce morning stiffness and ease movement.
• Boswellia Serrate (Indian Frankincense) shows promise in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, with proven anti-inflammatory effects.
• Ginger, Cat’s Claw and S-adenosylmethionine also have anti-inflammatory compounds.
3. Drink More Water for Natural Pain Relief
You may already be aware that your body is made up of about 3/4 water. But did you know that it plays a vital role in keeping your joints lubricated, absorbs shock in your spine, and protects sensitive tissue? It’s also your body’s way of detoxing. So, if you feel that your body is starting to feel like a creeky old door, get out your “watering can” and lubricate your body’s hinges — the joints that help you move.
4. Try Mind-body Approaches for Natural Pain Relief
Mind-body approaches are also proven methods of helping reduce pain. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), somatic psychotherapy, mindfulness, and meditation are all effective in the treatment of pain. In essence, they can teach you ways to distract your mind from your pain. There are guides and resources online, including videos you can watch to learn how it works. Massages and other touch therapies may also work in conjunction with your mind-body approaches. Arthritis can respond beautifully to appropriate physical touch. For example, a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that parental daily massage for children with arthritis eased their anxiety and stress, reduced the incidence and severity of pain, and lessened pain-limited activities.
5. Use Natural Topicals for Arthritis Pain Relief
Finally, you can try topical creams and ointments that combine natural oils with ingredients that reduce pain, like camphor and menthol, to take the edge off. These can be combined with physical therapy, light exercise and/or massage can help you get a handle on your pain. You can use a pain relief cream or ointment before, during, or after
exercise—anytime the pain strikes.
Just remember to wash your hands after you use a product with menthol. It can burn a little—the very reason that it soothes the pain. The combination of menthol and camphor work together to interrupt pain signals in your brain that scream pain so you can get the relief you need.
Natural Relief is Not Only Possible, It’s Probable!
While arthritis can be disempowering, disabling and painful, lifestyle changes can provide much-needed relief without the potentially harmful side effects that accompany pharmaceutical treatment.