While there is no cure for arthritis, many natural remedies can help relieve arthritis symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Arthritis is the term used for diseases that cause joint pain.
More than 100 types of arthritis affect an estimated 54.4 million adults in the United States.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a degenerative disease in which the cartilage in a joint wears out and the bones in the joint begin to change. Pain, stiffness, and swelling (if soft tissue is present) are common with OA and can lead to decreased functionality of the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease that causes arthritis because the immune system attacks healthy tissues.
RA usually occurs in multiple joints at once, often on both sides of the body, such as in both hands. During an RA attack known as a flare-up, the joint becomes inflamed and causes tissue damage.
Medication can relieve arthritis pain. However, some people prefer a more natural approach that they can try at home.
This article lists 12 effective, natural remedies for arthritis symptoms and their benefits.
Massage can relieve arthritis pain. Research has found that massage lowers cortisol levels, increases the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin, and lowers blood pressure.
A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that a one-hour full body massage relieved pain in those with knee osteoarthritis. A group of 222 participants were prescribed Swedish massage, light touch, or their standard care for 8 weeks. Standard care consisted of regular care of the participant for osteoarthritis.
Eight weeks of Swedish massage showed a significant improvement in symptoms. Pain and stiffness decreased, along with an improvement in joint function.
Yoga loosens the joints to improve flexibility and freedom of movement. It also releases hormones that induce a feeling of general wellbeing. Someone suffering from arthritis should keep the following in mind while practicing yoga:
- Start with a gentle yoga or flow class that allows participants to move through poses in a short amount of time. This loosens the joints without applying unnecessary pressure.
- If possible, a person should speak to the instructor beforehand to let them know that they have arthritis and may need to move through a pose faster.
- Try yoga later in the day after the joints have loosened. People with RA should speak to their healthcare professional about whether to practice yoga during a flare-up.
Voltaren gel and capsaicin creams are examples of topical treatments available at pharmacies. Capsaicin works on nerve endings by reducing substance P and reducing pain signals. Voltaren is a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or anti-inflammatory pain reliever.
The body responds to this by lowering the overall pain signals, similar to an oral, over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever like ibuprofen.
These treatments are especially useful for people who are unable to get OTC treatments due to stomach pain or heart risk factors.
Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) works through a device that uses small electrode pads to send an electrical signal that reduces the body’s response to pain. The theory is that it can also trigger natural pain relieving hormones in the brain.
In a Cochrane study, 19 clinical studies with 1,346 participants were evaluated. TENS treatments reduced pain intensity, but the results were inconsistent in all studies.
Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). During a treatment session, an acupuncturist inserts very thin stainless steel needles into specific areas on the body to relieve a number of symptoms.
TCM focuses on life energy or “Qi” (pronounced “Chee”), which circulate in the body via paths known as meridians. Pain occurs when the flow of qi is interrupted or blocked. An acupuncturist can release meridians to restore proper flow and relieve symptoms.
While some research shows acupuncture can improve arthritis symptoms, researchers still don’t fully understand how it works.
A review of 43 studies found that acupuncture provided rheumatoid arthritis relief with no adverse effects.
Exercise is an effective strategy for managing pain due to arthritis. Tai Chi is the practice of flowing and gentle movements and offers different styles for people of all fitness levels.
The Sun style is usually preferred for people with arthritis as it uses a standing position with less flexion at the knees. It consists of mobility-oriented exercises and relaxation.
A 2016 study found that people who participated in tai chi had fewer symptoms of depression and improved quality of life than people who participated in a stretching and education program.
Swimming offers gentle resistance and is easy on the joints, as gravity reduces the body’s movements.
The pain of arthritis makes some people avoid moving affected joints. However, over time, inactivity negatively affects the joints. This can cause muscle atrophy and ligaments to lose their freedom of movement.
Exercising in the water is a gentle way to move the affected joint and maintain muscle strength. A review of six articles between 2010 and 2015 found that water exercises focusing on strength, endurance, balance, and stretching resulted in significant reductions in pain in older adults.
Participants in one of the studies also experienced lower rates of depression, improved freedom of movement, a reduction in body fat, and an improvement in overall quality of life.
For someone with chronic pain, soothing heat therapy can be one of the best natural cures for arthritis. A hot compress or shower can loosen stiff tissue and help relieve the pain from sore muscles.
Heat therapy dilates blood vessels, which increases the amount of blood and oxygen that flow to an injured area. More blood flow results in a looser, less painful joint.
A person can use a warm, steamy shower, warm bath, or heating pad. About 20 minutes of therapy should be enough for most people.
Mindfulness meditation involves training the mind to give non judgmental attention to thoughts, emotions, and feelings in the body. This can reduce the pain that results from chronic symptoms.
One study found that participants who completed mindfulness meditation training reported reductions in symptoms of RA. The researchers tracked them for a period after the study, and the results reported the same benefits up to 6 months later.
Physiotherapy aims to improve flexibility, range of motion, strength, and ability to use an injured joint.
A physical therapist designs an exercise program to rebuild strength, improve coordination, and teach proper posture and movement to relieve pain.
A systematic review of the studies published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science looked at the effects of physical therapy on patients with RA. The results suggest that physical therapy resulted in greater pain relief in more participants compared to normal rheumatoid care.
Of the more than 54 million adults with arthritis in the United States, 39 million are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Arthritis Foundation reports that the pressure on the joints with each step on a flat surface is about one and a half times a person’s body weight. In people with arthritis, this increases to four times a person’s body weight.
A 5 pound (lb) reduction in body weight can reduce the stress on a person’s joints by about 20 pounds. This could lead to a significant reduction in pain and help preserve the remaining articular cartilage.
Excess body fat releases cytokines, proteins that can cause inflammation throughout the body. This can make painful arthritis worse, so a person’s doctor may recommend a weight management program.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid. They are available in fish oil supplements and also in vegetarian form. When someone ingests omega-3 fatty acids, the body converts them into anti-inflammatory agents.
Omega-3s have numerous proven benefits and can be beneficial in treating RA.
A clinical review found that several studies in patients with RA suggest that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation resulted in a significant reduction in joint pain compared to control groups.
Several global studies showed that omega-3 fatty acids given in varying amounts resulted in less pain and eliminated the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
While there is no cure for arthritis, many natural remedies can help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness. A person can try some of these at home for little or no cost.
If arthritis isn’t responding to natural treatments, a person should speak to their doctor.
A doctor may be able to prescribe other treatments that can provide relief.