You may be surprised how many natural remedies there are for arthritis. While results vary from patient to patient, you may find significant benefits from certain natural remedies.
Many of these natural remedies for arthritis will require you to supplement your primary care physician with some combination of naturopath, nutritionist, physical therapist, chiropractor and therapeutic masseuse. Here are 15 natural remedies for arthritis to consider:
Diet and Weight Loss Program
1. Dieting—Weight loss can take pressure off weight-bearing joints. In fact, losing even a single pound takes 4 pounds of pressure off knees. Some patients find that when they lose between 15 and 20 pounds, their symptoms disappear.
2. Changing Diet—And while we’re on the subject of diet, some clinical nutritionists are connecting food allergies with joint inflammation. Dairy and sugars in their many forms (including agave, honey, fruit, molasses) may trigger inflammation.
3. Physical Therapy (PT)—Clinical PT for osteoarthritis of specific joints, such as knees and hips can help relieve or reduce pain, increase range of motion, strengthen the muscles surrounding joints and improve agility. For best results, work with a physical therapist that specializes in natural remedies for arthritis.
4. Biofeedback—Physical therapists that specialize in osteoarthritis sometimes use biofeedback to monitor stress feedback from involuntary physical functions (heart beat, temperature, brain waves). The feedback may help patients consciously reduce their muscle tension and thereby relieve the pain of osteoarthritis.
5. Gentle Exercise—Forget the heavy gym workout, but don’t discount the benefits of exercise that can build up the muscles and help compensate for deteriorating cartilage. Work with a trainer to design a program that includes some combination of moving exercises (isotonic)—such as walking, biking, or swimming—and static (isometric) exercise. Stretching and yoga also may increase range of motion.
6. Massage—Massage is a natural remedy for arthritis that may relieve symptoms by soothing joints and muscles and improving sleep. It’s also great for general relaxation.
7. Chiropractic Therapy—This is one natural remedy for arthritis that may slow joint degeneration and, if administered early enough, may even prevent arthritis by realigning joints. In more advanced cases, chiropractic manipulation may alleviate pain and increase mobility. Finally, it may relieve muscle spasms that are a secondary condition of osteoarthritis.
8. Braces, Orthotics and Shoe Wedges— Several non-invasive devices may provide support, normalize weight distribution and realign joints to relieve pain and improve mobility. Early realignment may even slow the progression of osteoarthritis. While most devices are available at pharmacies, your best results will come from working with a specialist who can custom fit the device to your body and condition.
Traditional Chinese Alternative Treatment
9. Acupuncture—The ancient procedure of acupuncture is widely accepted to control chronic pain. By helping to relieve pain, many patients are able to increase their range of motion and general mobility, increasing the effectiveness of this natural remedy for arthritis.
10. Acupressure—Similar to acupuncture, acupressure focuses pressure (rather than needles) on the body’s acupoints to help relieve pain. Some patients claim that it provides temporary pain relief.
11. Nutriceuticals—Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (often taken together) work for some osteoarthritis patients, but not for others. The clinical studies1 are mixed, but it may be worth trying because side effects are few and mild. If you want to try these nutriceuticals, try the sulfate (not hydrochloride) versions. Of course, before doing so, you’ll want to discuss the use of these and all supplements with your physician.
12. Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)—While a natural vegetable extract, avocado soybean unsaponifiables are prescription supplements in parts of Europe but available over-the-counter (OTC) in the United States. Clinical studies2 suggest that this supplement may be able to reduce a patient’s reliance on NSAIDs.
13. Omega-3—According to clinical studies, the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish, krill, walnuts, flax seeds, grass-fed beef, eggs and some vegetables are effective in reducing inflammation, pain, swelling and joint stiffness. When taken before your osteoarthritis progresses, omega-3 may slow your disease’s progress. Talk with your physician to determine if omega-3 is compatible with your other medications.
14. Vitamins C, D3 and E—Many healthcare providers recommend supplementing with vitamins, and some of these may serve as natural remedies for arthritis. But while available over-the-counter, vitamins are powerful and can deliver a wide range of reactions. Therefore, check with your healthcare provider or naturopath to determine which vitamins may help your arthritis symptoms and complement any medications you are taking.
Topical Pain Relief
15. Capsaicin Cream—Capsaicin, made from cayenne peppers, is the active ingredient in self-defense pepper spray. The cream (in concentrations ranging from 0.025 and 0.075 percent) is available in OTC and prescription strengths. It’s considered an effective natural remedy for arthritis with low risk of side effects. Its benefits may come from deadening the nerve endings and depleting the substance that communicates pain to the brain. Results are not immediate and it may take a couple of weeks to provide relief. While there are no known drug interactions, do not get it in your eyes, mucus membranes or open cuts.
If you are ready to take proactive control of your osteoarthritis, make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider to discuss a combination of natural remedies for arthritis that match your disease, age and current level of mobility.
1 Blotman F, Maheu E, Wulwik A, Caspard H, Lopez A. Efficacy and safety of avocado/soybean unsaponifiables in the treatment of symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. A prospective, multicenter, three-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Rev Rhum Engl Ed. 1997;64(12):825-34. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9476272. Accessed July 18, 2015.2 Deutsch L. Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on chronic inflammation and arthritic symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007; 26(1):39-48. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?orig_db=PubMed&cmd=Search&TransSchema=title&term=Deutsch%5Bauthor%5D+AND+Evaluation+of+the+effect+of+Neptune. Accessed July 18, 2015.