First termed in the 16th century from the Greek word “arthron” meaning “joint,” arthritis has been a painful affliction which millions of people have endured over the centuries. Over 100 different types of arthritis exist today, and 1 in 5 adults over 18 in the U.S. lives with doctor-diagnosed arthritis according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Arthritis, or the inflammation of one or more joints in the body, results in stiffness and pain of joints from the hands to the knees and even your feet. While day to day living can totally be disrupted by arthritis pain, with the right tips, tools, and activities, pain relief can be attained without drugs, injections, or surgery. Check out these 10 ways to manage arthritis pain naturally:
Ease of Use Tools
Basic but effective tools, gadgets and instruments which simplify even the easiest daily tasks can make a huge difference in preventing and managing arthritis pain. A common complaint of arthritis in the hand specifically is searing joint pain which accompanies grabbing, pinching, or picking an item up. These tools may help:
Reacher grabber: Lightweight and relatively inexpensive, nifty reacher grabber tools serve essentially as an extension of your own arm. By squeezing a wide-grip trigger handle, you can open the rubber (and sometimes magnetic) jaws at the end of a long shaft, helping you pick things up off the ground or grab items off high shelves.
Handle grippers: Holding on to long thin instruments like toothbrushes, eating utensils, even pens and pencils poses an interesting challenge for someone with arthritis in their hand. Handle grippers are basic rubber or silicone coils which wrap around a thin tool, providing a wider non-slip area with which to grip it.
Big button remote: Having to use multiple remotes with tiny buttons simply to control the TV, Blu-ray player, and cable box is annoying enough without adding joint pain into the mix. Big button universal remotes combine the functionalities of your different devices and provide a wider, easier-to-read surface area to push buttons and control the TV.
Activities and Fitness
The thought of moving around and exerting yourself while experiencing painful arthritis might seem oxymoronic, but it has been shown to benefit arthritis sufferers in both the short and long term.
Regular exercise: Routine low-impact exercise, as much as 30 minutes to an hour every day, has been shown to relieve joint pain by boosting blood flow to affected areas, loosening stiff joints, and boosting feel-good hormones too. Low-impact exercises might include swimming, dancing, light weight lifting, and brisk walks; and good news, this type of regular fitness also benefits your heart, brain, and lungs.
Spa therapy: Like you needed another excuse to go to the spa! Spa therapy, or balneotherapy, including soaks in warm mineral water, mud baths, and water massage, was included in treatment guidelines from the Osteoarthritis Research Society International in 2014 specifically for arthritic knee pain.
Yoga: While yoga practice counts as exercise as well, it’s mindfulness component, in addition to meditation and deep breathing, set it apart as a natural arthritis pain reliever. Gentle yoga (or try senior, restorative, or beginners yoga) incorporates gradual stretching and flowing movements to relieve inflamed muscles and joints, combined with held poses and stress-relieving breathing practices. A 2017 study found that mindfulness-cultivating exercises increased the likelihood for someone with osteoarthritis in the knee to benefit from exercise.
Physical Therapy: Guided evaluation and instruction from a physical therapist can aid the arthritis sufferer in strengthening balance, flexibility and coordination as well as aligning joints to reduce swelling and pain. Recommendations for physical activity and exercise that may benefit you and even help you lose weight (which can help lessen the effects of arthritis) might come from a physical therapist too.
If you are looking for nonpharmacological remedies which will ease pain and make moving around with arthritis easier, you are in luck.
Topical treatments: Gels, creams, salves, rubs, and even patches which offer varying analgesic (pain relieving) effects have been shown to temporarily alleviate arthritis pain. Natural ingredients like extract from the arnica flower, capsaicin, or menthol trigger different sensations (like a heating and cooling effect) which alter the brain’s perception of pain in the short-term.
Braces and gloves: Joint-alignment devices like hand braces, thumb splints, and knee wraps help stabilize inflamed joints, adjust body mechanics for corrected gait (to alleviate knee pain), and support weaker body parts. Arthritis gloves localize targeted compression to the hand to boost circulation and soothe aching joints.
Foot orthotics: A 2011 study revealed that custom foot orthotics and specific shoe types may just change the way you walk and the muscles you engage enough to alleviate some of the load on your joints, specifically the knee, thus inducing pain relief and encouraging greater movement.
The goal with any treatment is to find noninvasive and nonsurgical avenues that offer just as much benefit without the risk. Whether it’s daily yoga, weekly physical therapy, or occasionally wearing a hand splint, what you do to address arthritis pain should be customized to your individual needs and capabilities.