There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for arthritis. This is because the broad category that we call arthritis is made up of a number of conditions. All of them have different causes which then require different treatments. Here are the basics when it comes to natural remedies for arthritis, as well as interventional treatments for advanced cases.
What causes arthritis pain?
Before you can know what you’re treating, it is essential to understand the underlying cause for your symptoms.
Both genetic and environmental factors can cause the onset of various types of arthritis. The risk of arthritis does increase with age but gender also plays a role. Women and men are likely to suffer from different forms of arthritis.
Increased bodyweight may also play a role. This is especially true in the joints in the lower extremities which are under the stress of the excess weight. An injury to a joint may also increase the risk for developing arthritis. Also, from repetitive types of strains, such as with a work situation, can lead to arthritis.
The term arthritis actually refers to a broad category of conditions. Typically arthritis will cause pain in the joints though the underlying source is quite different between the various forms.
Types of arthritis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over 54 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. The two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis which, combined, affect nearly 30 million people. Women are more likely to receive a diagnosis than men.
Let’s take a closer look at several arthritis conditions and their underlying causes.
This most common form of arthritis is considered a wear and tear condition that is associated with aging. As the tissues that cushion the joints in areas such as the hips or knees begin to wear away, it can cause pain, swelling, and discomfort.
The cartilage that protects joints during movement can deteriorate over time. At first the cartilage becomes rough but eventually it will wear away all together. When this happens the bone will rub directly against bone.
While osteoarthritis is connected with aging and the long-term deterioration of the protective tissues between joints it doesn’t only affect the elderly. Other causes can include injuries, improper lift techniques, and repetitive motions.
This arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and affects small joints such as those in the hands and feet. This condition, unlike osteoarthritis, is caused when the body’s immune system attacks otherwise healthy cells.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining between joints which causes painful swelling and inflammation and can even lead to joint deformity over time. While this is happening the tendons and ligaments that hold the affected bones together for natural movement will stretch and weaken.
Since this form of arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, there is no way to prevent it from occurring. However, individuals can use a variety of techniques to help alleviate pain in their joints during flare-ups.
A form of rheumatoid arthritis, this condition affects individuals typically under the age of 16. Severe cases of the disease can affect normal growth. Like rheumatoid arthritis this condition affects the joints causing inflammation.
As with adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues in the joints. The reason this happens is still unknown, but some studies have shown that both heredity and environment play a part. It is also believed that some gene mutations may also cause individuals to be susceptible to environmental factors that trigger the disease such as certain viruses.
Many young patients only experience the symptoms for a short time, while others are affected by the condition for the rest of their lives. As with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, there is no cure but there are many ways to control the pain.
When uric acid builds up in the system, it can cause sharp crystals to develop in the body and be deposited in joints in the extremities. It most commonly affects the joint in the big toe and causes excruciating pain and sensitivity to even light pressure. Uric acid is a waste product and is typically eliminated from the body through urination. However, if the kidneys are unable to process it correctly it can build up in the system.
These sharp urate crystals form around the joints causing intense pain. There is no actual cure for gout but patients can manage the condition by eliminating alcohol and moderating the amount of protein in their diet.
Getting started with natural remedies for arthritis
Because there is no single arthritis diagnosis, natural remedies for arthritis and more advanced treatments depend on:
- The specific condition and severity
- How it affects the individual
- How it responds to treatment
While there aren’t any specific cures for any of these types of arthritis, patients can learn to manage the symptoms and reduce their pain substantially. Because these conditions affect more than just the immediate areas, it is important to embrace the entire human experience to treat them properly.
Increased pain caused by any form of arthritis can lead to depression, anxiety, or a decreased desire to do activities that were once the cornerstone of someone’s life.
Embracing an overall health and wellness approach that incorporates nutrition, exercise, and mental well-being can mean the difference between suffering and thriving. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment for these multiple forms of arthritis, the inclusion of a holistic health approach to your existing lifestyle can increase your daily engagement and provide a foundation for more energy and less pain.
Here’s some natural remedies for arthritis you can try.
1. Home remedies for arthritis
Many home remedies are steeped in history and have quite a bit of good old-fashioned common sense behind them. There are many things you can do at home that will help relieve the pain caused by multiple forms of arthritis.
These natural remedies for arthritis include:
- Heat: Keeping the joints warm when you’re experiencing pain can help alleviate the symptoms. Use a heating pad or wrap the joint with a scarf to keep warm.
- Epsom salts: As noted in more detail below, the magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt can help provide relief for aching joints. For pain in your hips or knees, run a warm bath and add a half cup of Epsom salts to the water.
- Olive oil: It may sound crazy but rubbing cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil into your aching joints can actually help reduce pain and swelling. Gently massage the oil into each joint twice a day. You can also replace other fats in your diet, such as butter, with olive oil to gain more health benefits.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a vital part in over 300 processes and systems of the body. Trouble is, people in the U.S. are not getting enough of it. In 2009, the World Health Organization published a report indicating that 75% of adults are not getting the recommended levels of daily magnesium, with one in five adults getting less than half of what they need.
In addition to increasing pain in the joints and muscles, magnesium deficiency also includes some of the following symptoms:
- Twitching muscles
- Headaches and migraines
- Heart palpitations
- Chronic fatigue
Taking magnesium transdermally (literally “across the skin”) is the most efficient way to fix a deficiency. Transdermal magnesium can be applied through a spray and a massage or via a bath of Epsom salts (which are magnesium sulfate). A hot bath or a gentle massage are also great ways to relax and relieve mood disorders like anxiety which can increase the perception of pain.
3. Anti-inflammatory diet
There are a few simple changes you can make every day to get started, and a few basic rules to help make it easier.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar contributes to obesity, and people in the U.S. consume overwhelming amounts of it. If you make one change, make it this one. Cut out as much added sugar as you can, including any type of sweetener (and don’t substitute artificial sweeteners, which are just as bad).
- Add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These whole foods are filling, packed with nutrients, and good for every part of your body. Try to eat what’s in season for best nutrition, or select flash-frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Limit processed foods. If it comes in a box or a bag, choose something else. Processed foods contain added sugar and preservatives that may promote inflammation in the body.
- Find recipes that work for you. Find all of our anti-inflammatory recipes here.
Further, some foods increase inflammation in the body while others help reduce pain and swelling. Some healthier food choices for arthritis are:
- Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are great for reducing inflammation in the body. Choose fatty fish such as salmon or tuna to add to your diet several times a week.
- Dairy: Vitamin D and calcium are also essential building blocks for areas around the joints. The easiest way to get these in your diet is through dairy foods, but if that doesn’t work because of lactose intolerance, consider leafy green vegetables as another way to get these nutrients.
- Whole grains: Skip the white bread and rice and switch to whole-grains. You can easily replace these items with whole-wheat breads and brown rice to get the added benefits of the whole-grain’s anti-inflammatory properties.
4. Stop smoking
While not a treatment per se, the research proves over and over what we already know instinctively: smoking is bad for every part of your health.
Smokers tend to be less physically active, tend towards obesity, and generally have a poor diet. All of these factors contribute to increased joint pain due to lack of exercise and pressure from extra weight.
If you need help and motivation, there are plenty of programs to keep you focused on quitting. Counseling and support—in person, online, or by phone—has been linked to high rates of cessation success for all types of smokers.
If a holistic treatment is one that benefits the entire body, then quitting smoking is about as holistic as it gets!
5. Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a treatment that is gaining acceptance as an effective, side-effect-free way to manage stress that can lead to an increased perception of pain. It’s one of the easiest natural remedies for arthritis to incorporate into your day.
Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to simply sit and observe any sensations that arise, using the breath to relax and take a non-judgmental view.
Often arthritis pain can lead to negative self-talk and pain catastrophizing. In this case, the person in pain might think about how they are limited and how life will always be restricted.
Mindfulness meditation helps to calm these thoughts and replace them with acceptance. It doesn’t mean that the pain of arthritis goes away, but the perception of pain may change. Meditation practitioners report a more level mood and a decrease in the impact of pain on daily life.
Acupuncture may be at least 2,000 years old, but in recent history it has become a go-to holistic treatment for arthritis pain. In a 2006 study of over 3,500 people, researchers found that acupuncture offered significant pain relief in a period of three months to those suffering from osteoarthritis. This pain relief was accompanied by an improved quality of life.
Acupuncturists insert hair-like needles into specific energy points in the body. These needles are left in for a period of time (between 15 and 45 minutes). They may be stimulated with movement, heat, or a mild electrical current. The exact mechanism of this practice and why it works is unclear, but Chinese medical doctors stress that the needles stimulate particular energy points in the body. They believe that releasing the energy relieves pain, inflammation, and stress.
However it works, research is proving that adding this to a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan is a good practice.
In spite of the fact that movement sometimes causes pain in affected joints, individuals dealing with the effects of arthritis should keep moving. Exercising and strengthening the muscles can help increase the body’s ability to compensate for the pain in the joint. However, don’t feel like you have to push yourself to do things that increase the pain.
Connecting with friends as you exercise, getting out into nature for some “forest bathing,” and continuing to participate in activities that you love not only increases physical fitness but also develops mental toughness, emotional stability, and spiritual calm.
Swimming and water aerobics are also great for individuals dealing with the effects of arthritis. Because our bodies are buoyant in water it keeps pressure off the affected joints. The resistance helps your muscles get a full workout.
Adding mind-body exercise like yoga or t’ai chi to your routine can help, as can long hikes in wooded areas. If you are starting a new exercise program, talk to your doctor first, then grab a friend and get started. Aim to break a sweat every day, even if it is not a strenuous workout. Look for exercises that you enjoy so that you are more likely to stick with it.
Even after you incorporate a balanced and healthy diet into your life it is still important to ensure that you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals. Supplements may help.
Some supplements that can act as arthritis treatments include:
- Vitamin C: This vitamin is essential for building up the connective tissue around joints. While you can get it through eating citrus fruits you may wish to add a supplement to stay healthy.
- Turmeric: A popular spice in India and used in many curries this may be the most delicious anti-inflammatory supplement you can add to your diet.
- Bromelain: This nutrient is found in pineapples and is another anti-inflammatory agent. Rather than eating extra pineapple you can add this as a supplement to your daily regimen.
Arthritis treatments for severe pain
Even after bringing in natural remedies for arthritis, you may need additional help. That’s okay. You may only need treatments during bad flare-ups or to help you manage your condition until exercise and diet help address inflammation. Or, you may need to incorporate both lifestyle and medical interventions together to help manage your symptoms.
Arthritis treatments include:
- NSAID medications: These include medications like ibuprofen, neproxen, or celecoxib. Talk with your doctor about whether or not any of these drugs will be effective for you.
- Topical creams: Capsaicin, the compound found in peppers that creates heat, can be used as a topical treatment for aching joints.
- Steroids: Some forms of arthritis require a more long term anti-inflammatory medication such as steroids. Educate yourself on the risks before taking this medication.
- Joint injections: Injecting medications directly into the affected joints can reduce your pain and help with long-term inflammation.
- Surgery: Since arthritis can affect your joint’s and lead to lasting damage, some patients with severe symptoms will need to seek surgery as a treatment.
Before making any lifestyle changes, incorporating natural remedies for arthritis, or considering medications or interventional procedures, talk to your doctor to determine the right combination of treatments for you. If you don’t currently have a pain specialist, you can find one in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one near you by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.