Arthritis is the term for a group of conditions that cause joint inflammation and pain. Although medical treatments can help, certain home remedies and lifestyle changes can also reduce symptoms.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases. The most common type is osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that wears down the padding between joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Another common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks joints and other parts of the body, causing uncontrolled inflammation. Arthritis of any type can cause pain and lead to lasting damage to joints. In this article, we present some of the most effective home remedies to slow the progression of the disease and treat the symptoms of arthritis.
1. Aquatic exercises
Water exercises can be beneficial for people with arthritis. Water provides resistance, which increases the intensity of the exercise. At the same time, the buoyancy that water provides helps support body weight, relieving pressure on the joints. A 2015 scientific review found that older adults with osteoarthritis who participated in an aquatic exercise program experienced the following benefits:
– a reduction in body fat
– improved coordination
– improved range of motion
– improved mood and quality of life
Participants also saw a reduction in arthritis pain, although this was often short-lived. For continued pain relief, researchers support current recommendations of doing 40 to 60 minutes of aquatic exercise three times a week.
2. Weight loss
According to the Arthritis Foundation, every 1/2 pound of body weight equates to 3 lbs of extra stress on the knees and 6 lbs of extra pressure on the hip joints.
This increased pressure leads to faster breakdown of the cartilage between the joints, which worsens osteoarthritis. Losing weight can relieve pressure on joints, reducing pain and stiffness.
3. Tai Chi
Tai chi is a low impact exercise that incorporates slow, gentle movements to increase flexibility, muscle strength and balance. In 2013 researchers reviewed seven studies looking at the effectiveness of tai chi in improving arthritis symptoms. The authors concluded that a 12-week tai chi course was beneficial in reducing pain and stiffness and increasing physical function in participants with osteoarthritis.
Iyengar yoga is a type of yoga that focuses on correct anatomical alignment and uses props to support the body and relieve tension and inflammation. A 2013 study looked at the effectiveness of a 6-week Iyengar yoga program for young women with RA. The researchers divided the 26 participants into two groups: 11 took part in two 1.5-hour yoga classes over 6 weeks, while the other 15 did not take part in any yoga class. Compared to the control group, participants who did yoga reported significant improvements in their health, mood, quality of life, and ability to cope with chronic pain.
5. Hot and cold treatments
Heat and cold treatments are two different but effective methods for reducing arthritis pain. Heat therapy stimulates circulation and can relieve stiff joints and sore muscles, while cold therapy constricts blood vessels, which slows circulation, reduces swelling, and numbs pain. Alternating heat and cold can be tried, but it is essential to carefully monitor the skin to avoid damage from these treatments and to discontinue their use in the event of injury.
Heat treatments include:
– start the day with a hot bath or shower to relieve stiffness
– apply hot paraffin on painful joints
– place a heating pad or a hot water bottle on the painful joints.
Cold treatments should be limited to 20 minutes at a time. These treatments include
– wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to the painful areas
– immerse the affected joint in ice water
– use a cold pack
Some of these remedies are available for sale online, including heating pads, hot water bottles, and cold packs.
6. Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness is a form of meditation. By practicing mindfulness, people try to focus their attention on their feelings and what their body is feeling in the moment.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program that uses mindfulness to help people manage pain and stress, both of which can compromise the immune system. A 2014 study investigated whether MBSR could reduce disease activity in people with RA by boosting the immune system. A total of 51 participants took part in the study, 26 of whom completed an 8-week MBSR program, while the remaining 25 received no treatment. Participants who performed MBSR showed reductions in RA symptoms, including pain, morning stiffness, and tender and swollen joint counts. Participants reported these improvements immediately after MBSR and up to 6 months later.
Massaging your muscles and joints regularly can help soothe arthritis pain. Experts believe that massage reduces the body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and substance P, a neurotransmitter, which is associated with pain. Massage also helps improve mood by increasing serotonin levels.
A 2013 study looked at the effects of massage on people with RA in their upper limbs. The researchers divided the participants into two groups. One group received a light pressure massage, and the other a moderate pressure massage. A trained therapist massaged each of the participants once a week for 4 weeks. The participants also learned to massage themselves and did it once a day. After 4 weeks, participants in the moderate-pressure massage group had less pain, better grip strength, and greater range of motion in the affected limb than those who received light-pressure massage. A 2015 study looking at the effects of moderate pressure massage for knee arthritis reported similar benefits.
8. Vitamin D
Vitamin D builds strong bones and helps maintain immune system function. A 2016 study found that people with RA often have lower vitamin D levels than those without the condition. People with the lowest levels of vitamin D also tended to experience the highest levels of disease activity. Vitamin D can be obtained by exposing yourself to the sun and eating certain foods. Vitamin D supplements are also available in stores and online.
9. Omega-3 fatty acids
Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body and play a role in regulating the immune system. The authors of a recent review concluded that omega-3 fatty acids appear to improve RA symptoms, but noted that more studies are needed to confirm this. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. You can also take omega-3 supplements.
10. Chondroitin and glucosamine
Some people take chondroitin sulfate or glucosamine hydrochloride to treat osteoarthritis.
When to consult a doctor
Left untreated, arthritis can cause permanent joint damage or progress more quickly. People with arthritis should consult a doctor to determine which home remedies are best for their medical treatment plan. You should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms for 3 days or more:
– pain, swelling, tenderness or stiffness in one or more joints
– redness and warmth of the skin surrounding the joint
– difficulty moving the joint or performing daily activities