Arthritis affects everyone differently. Some people struggle with pain in their fingers and heads, while others deal with back and knee pain.
Wherever it hits you, these five alternative therapies have been shown to be immensely beneficial for relieving stiffness, swelling, and pain caused by arthritis.
1. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is a great option for treating pain caused by both osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis that occurs when cartilage wears down) and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack joint tissue).
The specific type of treatment you receive will vary depending on the type of arthritis you suffer from, as well as the severity and location of your pain.
For example, people with osteoarthritis typically do fine with gentle, manual adjustments of the neck and spine. But, those with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly when they’re in the middle of a painful flare, don’t always respond well to adjustments. Instead, electrotherapy, ultrasound, or other relaxing therapies will be more effective.
2. Boswellia Essential Oil
Essential oils can effectively treat everything from snoring and sleep disturbances to joint pain.
One of the best essential oils for treating arthritis pain is Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense. This oil is so powerful that it has even been compared to popular pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Boswellia treats arthritis pain in the following ways:
Supporting healthy immune function
Reducing production of cytokines, which can increase inflammation
Regulating lymphocyte and T-cell interactions
Reducing the autoimmune effects of immunoglobulin G antibodies
To use Boswellia for your arthritis pain, mix about ten drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil. Then, apply the mixture to painful areas several times per day.
Acupuncture is an ancient practice that involves the insertion of thin needs into specific areas of the skin. The belief is that, when the needles are inserted, they can help restore a healthy flow of qi, or energy, throughout the body.
While, in general, convention medicine practitioners are on the fence about acupuncture, research shows that it can be a highly effective treatment option.
A number of physiological changes do occur when the needles are inserted during an acupuncture treatment. These changes include the release of endorphins and enkephalins, two neurotransmitters that can help minimize pain. The insertion can also produce cortisol, a hormone that can reduce inflammation.
Acupuncture is also a great alternative or complement to other therapies because it comes without any potentially dangerous side effects. The use of painkillers, even over-the-counter ones, can cause digestive issues and foster dependence. There’s no risk of this with acupuncture (or any of the other treatments included in this list).
Massage can help relieve pain and stiffness in people with arthritis. It can also minimize stress and improve sleep, which, in turn, decreases inflammation and allows the muscles to recover.
One of the reasons massage is so effective is because the pressure signals the brain to release serotonin, another neurotransmitter that reduces stress and promotes relaxation.
Many people are hesitant to try massage because they think it’s too expensive. The good news is that self-massage has also been proven to be effective in treating arthritis pain. Even if you can only afford a professional massage on occasion, you can still reap the benefits at home on your own time.
You can use self-massage to work through sore muscles in the feet, calves, arms, and neck. You can even use a topical pain-relieving cream and tools like foam rollers or tennis balls for extra benefits.
Comfrey is a medicinal herb that can be added to other topical arthritis creams to amplify their effects. Comfrey reduces inflammation and speeds up the body’s natural healing process.
Like Boswellia essential oil, comfrey’s effects appear to be comparable to those of topical NSAIDs, without any side effects.
The results of one study found that people who used a cream that contained comfrey root extract saw significant improvement in pain, stiffness, and overall physical function compared to those who used a placebo.
You can buy comfrey extract online or at some health food stores. Simply add a few drops of the extract to your favorite arthritis cream, or to a carrier like coconut oil, and apply the mixture to painful or inflamed areas.