Arthritis is a condition that affects joints in any part of the body, be it your fingers, knees, or elbows. The affected joints may experience decreased range of motion due to inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Inflammation may also occur in tendons and ligaments surrounding the affected joints.
Arthritis is common in women and occurs more frequently among older people, mostly because joints become weaker and less flexible with age. Although commonly associated with seniors, this joint related disease can affect anyone at any age too. This includes young people, especially after an injury or due to of some joint disorder. It’s estimated that about 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some form of arthritis.
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. While this condition can present itself in a variety of ways, the most common forms of arthritis include:
Affecting millions of people across the world, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It usually develops in the cartilage where damage to this connective tissue causes it to erode gradually leaving the bones in the joints exposed and causing them to rub together. Although any joint can be affected by OA, the most commonly affected joints are those of the hands, spine, hips, and knees.
The most common cause of this type of arthritis is the gradual wear and tear of the cartilage lining of a joint, which is brought on by years of joint use. This is why osteoarthritis mostly affects the old. Osteoarthritis can also be caused by damage to the cartilage sustained through some form of injury.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is not brought on by an outward force. It occurs when the body’s own immune system turns against the joints of the body and attacks the cells lining the joints. Overtime, the attack on the cells causes the cartilage to breakdown, which in turn leads to the damage of the joint itself causing it to become swollen, painful, and stiff.
Reasons why the immune system attacks the joints is unclear. However, this condition seems more common in women than men. Individuals who smoke or have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis are also at a higher risk of getting affected by this type of arthritis.
Aside from these two common ones, other types of arthritis include:
- Psoriatic arthritis: Inflammation of the joints brought on by psoriasis (a skin condition characterized by red, itchy, scaly, patches
- Secondary arthritis: A type of arthritis that occurs years after a joint injury such as a fracture or sprain. It is also known as Post-Traumatic Arthritis (PA).
- Degenerative osteoarthritis or cervical spondylosis: Mainly affects the bones and joints in the neck and is characterized by pain and stiffness in the affected joints
- Gout: A form of arthritis caused by too much uric acid in the body
- Fibromyalgia: A medical condition that causes pain in the body’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments
The symptoms of arthritis vary depending on the type of the condition one is suffering from. However, the most common signs that indicate you are suffering from arthritis include:
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Tenderness and inflammation in and around the joints
- Decreased range of motion
- Joint weakness
- Red and warm skin over the affected joint
Home Remedies for Arthritis Pain Relief
The unfortunate thing about arthritis is that it’s a lifelong condition with no cure. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to endure painful movements or live your life confined to a wheel chair. There are many home remedies that can minimize or ease pain and symptoms associated with arthritis. Here’s a look at some of those remedies as well as other treatment options.
Magnesium is a great pain reliever because it deals with the source of the pain by relaxing muscles and nerve endings. Therefore, one effective way of relieving arthritis pain is getting more magnesium into the body. This can be done by adopting a magnesium-rich diet, taking magnesium-packed supplements, or rubbing magnesium oil onto the affected joints.
- Epsom Salt
Loaded with magnesium sulfate, Epsom salt offers another great way of utilizing magnesium for arthritis pain. The best way of making good use of this salt is by soaking the affected joints in a home-prepared water and Epsom salt solution. Small joints such as those of the wrist and fingers can be soaked in a mixture of a large bowl of warm water and 1 cup Epsom salt. Larger joints such as the knee and hips will however require you to sit in a tub filled with warm water and 2 cups Epsom salt for at least 15 minutes
- Hot and Cold Compresses
Simple to prepare and easy to administer, hot and cold compresses offer a good and effective way to manage arthritis symptoms. Cold helps to ease swelling and inflammation while heat minimizes pain, relaxes muscles, and activates proper blood flow.
The best way to administer this form of arthritis treatment is to place a heating pad, ice cube pack, or whatever source of heat/cold you’re using directly onto the affected joint and surrounding area. As a precautionary measure, make sure to avoid extreme heat that can burn your skin and ensure that each heating/cooling session doesn’t last more than 20 minutes.
Through its strong anti-inflammatory properties, garlic helps to deal with joint pain and swelling from the root. This herb/spice prevents the production of pro-inflammatory substances known as cytokines, which largely encourage inflammation in arthritis.
Garlic also offers the added benefit of enhancing the health of the immune system while inhibiting the production of the free radicals that cause joint damage. For this reasons, garlic (eaten raw or taken through garlic capsules) is best suited for rheumatoid arthritis patients as it helps to prevent further attacks to the lining of joints.
- Ginger Tea
Zingiber Officianale or ginger, as it is popularly known, is a natural anti-inflammatory that has been used for years by the Chinese to cure pain. When taken daily, ginger has proven to reduce inflammatory reactions as effectively as steroids do. Ginger also suppresses inflammatory molecules (leukotrienes) and inhibits the production of certain inflammatory genes. This combination of several anti-inflammatory properties makes ginger one of the best natural remedies for RA and OA.
A simple daily intake of 1 or 2 cups of ginger tea will be effective enough to ease pain and swelling. To make the ginger tea, simply mix 2 cups of hot water, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, and honey/sugar to taste.
Aside from making tea, you can also get pain relief from ginger by applying a ginger compress to the affected joint. Simply grate a piece of ginger and wrap it in a towel or cheesecloth. Then, dip the towel/cheesecloth in hot water for 30 seconds and place it on affected area for 20 minutes or more.
Another effective anti-inflammatory that can be used to relieve arthritis pain is turmeric. Circumin, the active ingredient in turmeric reduces joint pain and swelling by blocking inflammatory cytokines and enzyme. Unlike garlic and ginger, turmeric only treats inflammation and will not suppress or inhibit the genes and free radicals that trigger RA. This spice is therefore best for osteoarthritis. However, it can also be used to ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Turmeric can be taken in supplement form or added to food. Alternatively, you can prepare a turmeric solution in the following three simple steps:
- Bring about 1 quart of water to a boil
- Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder and allow the mixture to boil for another 10 minutes
- Cool the solution and drink
Whichever option you choose to go with, it’s advisable to avoid overdosing on turmeric since it can act as a blood thinner or upset your stomach. Your doctor can help you to determine the ideal turmeric dosage and ingestion method for you.
- Rub On Relief
Rubbing ointments and creams on arthritis-affected joints offers another natural way of relieving the pain that comes with the condition. Some rub on options work by inhibiting inflammatory enzymes while others provide a cooling sensation, which overrides the discomfort of arthritis pain.
A few good rub on options include extra virgin olive oil, peppermint and eucalyptus oil blend, and cayenne (capsaicin) ointment.
A short 15 minutes brisk walk, a few simple joint targeted stretches and exercises, several laps in the swimming pool, or any other form of physical activity will do wonders for an arthritis affected joint.
Exercise enhances flexibility in joints, improves range of mobility, decreases, pain, and prevents any further damage to the joints. Additionally, exercise increases strength in the muscles supporting the joints (even when the cartilage is thinning) and helps cut off excess weight, which in turn reduces the amount of stress on body joints.
Massages offer 2 highly beneficial benefits to patients suffering from arthritis. They increase blood flow through joints, which helps to provide temporary pain relief. Massages also relax the affected joint, making it easy to bend and extend.
With this treatment option, you can perform regular self-massages on affected area or schedule appointments with a massage therapist whose specialty should include the ability to work on arthritic joints.
- Diet: Foods to Include
Since arthritis is caused by chronic inflammation, tweaking your diet to include foods that reduce inflammation is one easy way to relieve arthritis pain. Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include:
Several fish options including salmon, herring, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which help to lower inflammation. Therefore, eating fish 2 to 3 times a week can help keep arthritis inflammation at a manageable level. To ensure you get as much fatty acids as possible, it’s best to avoid overcooking whichever fish option you choose to go with.
- Healthy Oils
There are plenty of healthy oil options that can be used to alleviate arthritis pain with olive oil being at the forefront. Olive oil eliminates inflammations symptoms (joint pain, swelling, stiffness, among others) by stopping the production of inflammation causing chemicals.
Other healthy oil options such as walnut, canola, and avocado, contain several beneficial fatty acids. Consuming the oils reduces the body’s inflammatory process, thereby alleviating pain and inflammation.
All cruciferous vegetables such as kales, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage feature a compound called sulforaphane, which slows down damage to cartilage joints caused by arthritis.
- Vitamin C Rich Foods
Although vitamin C doesn’t ease arthritis pain like the abovementioned foods, it still makes a good addition to an arthritis patient’s diet. This is because vitamin C is packed with antioxidants, which protects body cells from free radicals that damage cells and trigger rheumatoid arthritism. A few good sources of vitamin C include berries, bananas, carrots, mangos, green beans, and cauliflower.
- Diet: Foods to Avoid
Just as there are foods that reduce inflammation, there are also certain foods that aggravate the condition. Therefore, knowing what foods to avoid is just as important as knowing what foods to go for when on an anti-inflammatory diet. Some of the foods to avoid include:
- Unhealthy Fats
Foods that are rich in saturated and trans fats such as fries, baked goods, butter, and red meat should be the very first thing to avoid or at least cut back on when looking to calm arthritis symptoms.
These foods can lead to weight gain and consequently cause arthritis symptoms to worsen due to the increased pressure to the joints. Intake of sugary drinks and foods should also be minimized as a lot of sugar can trigger weight gain.
Several arthritis patients have expressed feeling more joint pain after ingesting gluten. So, try eliminating gluten from your diet to see if it helps ease your arthritis symptoms.
Nightshades are a group of foods that aggravate pain and inflammation in arthritis due to their high level of alkaloids. When taken is small doses, alkaloids are harmless and can actually work to soothe pain. However, in higher doses, these compounds overwhelm the body and attack the nervous system causing several signs of physical distress the most common of which is pain.
Joint pain and stiffness are the leading symptoms of nightshade sensitivity. So, cutting back on nightshade foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, or bell peppers can go a long way in minimizing arthritis pain.
- Over-The-Counter Pain Relieving Supplements
There are plenty of herbal supplements on the market that help to reduce joint pain. Some of these supplements are so effective they can actually compete with pharmaceutical drugs. A few examples of such supplements include:
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
Like most arthritis supplements, SAMe has anti-inflammatory properties that relieve pain by reducing pain perception. However, the best feature of this supplement is its healing potential.
S-adenosylmethionine actually stimulates cartilage growth by increasing the number of chondrocytes (cartilage cells). This supplement also protects and repairs joints as well as decreases further cartilage loss. Therefore, when used regularly, SAMe can significantly improve arthritis symptoms.
- Indian Frankincense (Boswellia Serrate)
Frankincense, as it is popularly known, is a powerful little supplement that offers several benefits particularly for osteoarthritis patients. The supplement’s active components include Boswellic acids, which offer both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving (analgesic) properties.
These acids work by disabling the white blood cells that would cause more swelling and shrinking tissue cells that have already become swollen and painful. Boswellia Serrate also helps to prevent cartilage loss.
- Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)
GLA is a supplement that has been tested and proven to improve stiffness, joint pain, and even grip strength within 6 months of use. In addition, the supplement helps to keep arthritis under control after 1 year of continuous intake. This is attributed to the omega 6 fatty acids found in GLA, which convert into anti-inflammatory chemical once they enter the body. This supplement works best for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
- Fish Oil Supplements
Another supplement, which effectiveness has been tested and proven, is fish oil capsules. These capsules work in the same way as GLA in the sense that the body converts the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements into powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals. Fish oil supplements are ideal for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Acupuncture’s potential to correct imbalances of energy flow within the body delivers several great benefits, one of which is pain relief. Individuals suffering from acute arthritis can really benefit from a few acupuncture sessions. However, this is only if the sessions are done by a trained professional or individual with the technical expertise of the needling therapy.
Throughout the history of medicine, the use of naturally occurring plants, foods, and compounds to treat or manage illnesses has remained a constant. Nature does a great job of healing the body from the inside as opposed to simply covering up symptoms. So, when looking to treat arthritis pain, using home remedy options can prove to be very effective. Just makes sure to go for the home remedy option that best suits the cause and type of arthritis you are suffering from. That is the only way to ensure success when treating arthritis naturally.
Talking with your health care provider is the best way to know which home remedy options, supplements, and dietary changes will work for you.