Arthritis affects more than 58 million U.S. adults. While there are more than 100 types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common types.
Although you can’t cure arthritis, many home remedies can improve quality of life and ease discomfort. From dietary changes to yoga to other therapies, learn more about these natural home treatments to try if you’ve been diagnosed with an arthritic condition.
In this article, we’ll also cover several home remedies as well as when to see a medical provider.
If you have arthritis, it can feel counterintuitive to be more active. However, regular, low-impact exercise helps support joint flexibility and muscle strength, which can help reduce overall arthritis discomfort. Regular exercise also supports a healthy body weight and helps to decrease inflammation in the body.
If you have been diagnosed with arthritis and are unsure how to start exercising, talk to your medical provider first. They may recommend an assessment by a physical therapist or trainer to ensure that you do not overwork certain areas, which could increase the risk of injury.
Generally, good types of exercise for arthritis are low-impact, such as:
- Tai chi
- Water aerobics
Weight can have a significant impact on the symptoms of arthritis. Excess body weight increases pressure on joints. This can especially impact pain in the hips, knees, and feet.
Reducing body weight by 10-20% may have a significant positive impact on quality of life if you are overweight.. It may also improve overall mobility and even decrease future joint damage.
When joints are stiff, heat or thermotherapy may help to improve mobility and reduce discomfort. Heat treatments may include:
- A long shower or warm bath
- An electric blanket or heating pad
Heat may be especially effective for morning stiffness. For some people, heat with humidity or moisture may worsen arthritis inflammation or stiffness, so ask your medical provider whether hot therapy might help you.
Cold therapy or cryotherapy may help alleviate joint pain, inflammation, swelling, and discomfort for people who have arthritis.
Some people benefit from alternating between cold and heat therapy, while others prefer only heat and feel no relief from cold.
If you want to utilize ice therapy for arthritis symptoms, try the following at home. Always cover skin with fabric or a towel and do not place the cold therapy directly on bare skin:
- Wrap a gel ice pack around the affected joint
- Use a bag of frozen peas or other vegetables as an ice pack
- Fill a plastic zip bag with ice cubes and place on the affected area
Massage may help relieve discomfort in joints and muscles. Neither the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) nor the Arthritis Foundation (AF) recommends massage as a treatment for arthritis. However, people who have arthritis may get benefits from massage. A small sample of patients reported that massage therapy helped improve quality of life and mobility to get things done in daily life.
Massage therapy comes with low risk and may be done at home. You can also work with a massage therapist with experience treating patients who have arthritis.
Yoga is not only a good form of low-impact exercise, the specific stretching can support improved alignment. This may be helpful for relieving tension or strain on joints and muscles. Yoga may also be helpful for reducing inflammation in the body.
Yoga can be done at home or in organized classes. Use correct posture while doing yoga poses, even if the flexibility is not there. Never try to achieve a yoga pose if it causes pain.
An alternative take on heat therapy, capsaicin cream is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) home remedy for arthritis pain. Capsaicin is made from hot peppers. It is an active ingredient in creams, patches, and other topical solutions aimed at relieving pain and stiffness from arthritis.
Some evidence finds that capsaicin cream may be helpful for alleviating low back pain. It works by reducing substance P, a neurotransmitter that sends pain signals to the brain. Since substance P can also trigger inflammation in joints, reducing substance P may improve symptoms of arthritis.
When using capsaicin products, follow instructions and avoid contact with the eyes.
Because arthritis triggers pain and inflammation in joints, it can make it hard to move. Some people only feel stiffness in the morning, while others may have mobility challenges throughout the day.
Braces are a nonsurgical option for relief and improved mobility. Because they support stability in the affected joint, they may also reduce swelling, pressure, or pain, and support more functionality in daily activities.
If you want to consider a brace, ask your medical provider or physical therapist what would be the most effective support.
Acupuncture is a popular alternative treatment that is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It uses tiny needles that stimulate surface points in the body. It is said to work by unblocking energy, or qi, and restoring balance.
Acupuncture may be effective for reducing pain caused by arthritis, although more research is needed. Acupuncture is low risk, and some patients report that it improves quality of life.
If you choose acupuncture therapy, find a licensed practitioner who has experience in treating pain or chronic conditions.
Meditation and mindfulness, along with other relaxation techniques, may improve quality of life by helping people better cope with stress. Since stress can exacerbate arthritis, patients may find some symptom relief by making meditation a regular part of their routine.
There are many ways to utilize mindfulness and meditation at home:
- Tai chi
- Breathing exercises
- Meditation apps or programs
Many people find that dietary changes play a big role in reducing pain from arthritis. Research does not identify one specific diet for arthritis. But evidence suggests that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, and omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful for chronic conditions like arthritis, specifically when it comes to pain management.
Research also links certain foods and beverages with higher inflammation levels, which may be tied to worse arthritis symptoms. These can include:
- Fried and fatty foods
- Red meats
- Processed foods
- Added sugars
When to See a Medical Provider
If you have arthritis and home remedies are ineffective to improve quality of life, a medical provider can help to determine whether you could benefit from prescription medication or if another condition may be worsening symptoms.
A medical provider can also refer you to a specialist, like a rheumatologist, who is skilled at treating arthritis and related inflammatory conditions.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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