Arthritis is a common and sometimes debilitating condition. Many people are living with this condition and its host of painful symptoms on a daily basis. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to manage symptoms but there are some natural approaches you can try too. We've compiled some ways to relieve arthritis pain naturally, from exercise and heat therapy to useful products.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis is a common and sometimes debilitating condition. There are different forms of arthritis:
- Juvenile Arthritis affects young people
- Septic Arthritis is triggered by infection
- Rheumatoid arthritis is triggered by the body’s own immune system
- Osteoarthritis or 'wear and tear' arthritis as it's often referred to
Osteoarthritis is the one we're most familiar with and most likely to encounter. This type of arthritis is associated with older age, although symptoms may begin much earlier especially in joints that have for some reason been overused e.g. the hands in manual labourers or knees in soccer players.
People sometimes confuse osteoarthritis with osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a thinning of bones that occurs with age and loss of calcium - it has no symptoms per say but can lead to fractures or broken bones.
What are the symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis on the other hand is wear and tear joints. This leads to:
- in the worst cases deformity of the joints themselves or the surrounding bone and tissues
Who is at risk?
It is most common after the age of 50 and found more often in women. 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 have some joint affected by osteoarthritis but this is often mild. There is a strong genetic link with osteoarthritis. However, there are other risk factors such as being overweight, having occupational overuse of a joint or a previous injury/fracture to a joint.
Joints that are used the most tend to be most affected. We think first of the load bearing joints of the knees, hips and lower spine. The hands are also typical - especially in those who work manually over many years. Osteoarthritis is becoming more common and one of the biggest factors in this is our aging population and increasing weight.
Ways to Relieve Arthritis Pain Naturally
There are number of simple ways to relieve arthritis pain naturally. These are changes that you can easily make from incorporating exercise in to your daily routine to ensuring you're warmer during the winter months. Check out some more useful tips below.
Even once Osteoarthritis is present, those who exercise do better than those who don’t. Think of arthritic joints as a door with rusty hinges - if left untouched they will eventually freeze up completely. If they are oiled and moved regularly (although the rust may still be present) the function can improve. As well as mobility, exercise will also improve overall fitness and muscle strength around the joint.
Another useful ways to relieve arthritis pain naturally is exercise. Understandably, it can be difficult for those with severe established arthritis to contemplate exercising due to their pain. This can lead to further weight gain and pressure on the joints due to immobility. It becomes a vicious circle. Studies have shown even a small amount of exercise, increased slowly in intensity will yield big benefits.
It can be helpful to engage with a personal trainer and GP exercise programme referrals are available for this purpose. In more severe osteoarthritis, physiotherapists and occupational therapists play an important role. Walking aids can help to relieve weight to arthritis lower limbs when walking.
Here are some exercises that would be of benefit:
- For hands, squeezy exercise balls are useful.
- For our larger joints, non-load bearing exercise is excellent e.g. swimming.
- A simple walk daily helps.
Symptoms may ebb and flow and are often worse in winter months. Heat packs can be useful for pain in some people.
Healthy Diet with Good Nutrition
Stop smoking and maintain a healthy diet. Overall bone and joint health relies on good nutrition. A balanced diet should contain vitamin D, calcium, fish oils and antioxidants in their natural forms. Aim for moderate calorie intake along with regular exercise, to help maintain a healthy weight - one of the risk factors for developing osteoarthritis in the first place.
Ways to Relieve Arthritis Naturally: Useful Products
We've put together a handy list of useful products that can help relieve arthritis naturally.
Chondroitin, glucosamine and the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oils are all important elements in the structure of normal joints - cartilage and synovial fluid. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest those with osteoarthritis symptoms benefit from taking these substances as food supplements. Further research in this field is required and is ongoing.
At present, the medical advice is that a trial of these supplements for 3 months may be useful to some. Talk to your doctor first if you have any allergies or take other medication.
Read about the best herbs for joint pain.
Please note, this blog is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, treatments or remedies if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medication.
Checked and updated: 7 September 2021