7 Drug Free Remedies To Help With Arthritis
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the pain of arthritis. Many people turn to over the counter medications like ibuprofen or paracetamol to deal with this pain, but whilst these drugs can help in the short run, they are not suitable for long term or regular use. As arthritis is a long term condition, it’s important to incorporate drug free strategies to help with the pain.
We spoke to our friends at Arthritis Action to discover 7 drug free remedies which can help with the pain of arthritis. Whether this guide is for you personally or if you want to get tips to help someone in your life, we hope you will find some tips that you find useful.
How the pain of arthritis affects someone's life
“One of the main symptoms of arthritis is pain and stiffness of the affected joint. The pain felt differs hugely from person to person, and can come and go at different times,” Dr Wendy Holden, consultant rheumatologist and medical adviser for Arthritis Action, says.
“The pain of arthritis can make people feel low or depressed, especially if it is difficult to perform usual activities or keep up with family or friends. The good news is that arthritis pain often comes and goes, sometimes even going completely. Staying positive on a bad day by knowing that the pain will settle, and simple pain-management techniques including relaxation, distraction and counting blessings can really help,” she continues.
Regular exercise and weight management
“Staying active is essential, as a lack of exercise leads to weaker muscles, less able to support the joints, leading to pain and instability. Simple exercises to improve muscle strength can be as effective for pain as prescription painkillers,” David Vaux, Therapies Manager of Arthritis Action, says.
“These can also help improve balance and function, keeping people independent and sometimes delaying the need for surgery for much longer. In fact, regular exercise is essential as it helps to strengthen the muscles that protect and support the joints. Exercise has even been proven to help reduce the pain of arthritis and improve function,” he continues.
In addition to strengthening your muscles, exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight which is really important for managing the symptoms of arthritis.
“Body weight plays a key part to arthritis, as excess weight places additional pressure on weight-bearing joints. A landmark study found one lb of weight-loss lessens four lbs of pressure on the knees, per step. For those with inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, carrying more body weight could reduce the chance of achieving remission,” says Martin Lau, Arthritis Action Services Development Manager & Registered Dietitian.
A healthy diet
“It’s important to remember that no single diet can ‘cure’ arthritis, and there are no particular diets or specific types of food that will make arthritis better or worse. Instead, the aim should be to aim for a normal body weight, and eating a well-balanced, varied diet. Fruit and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins and antioxidants which are essential for staying in good health, not to mention the high fibre content which is helpful for our gut bacteria.” he continues.
When thinking about arthritis friendly foods, it can be helpful to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to help keep inflammation under control. Anti inflammatory foods include cold water fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables, spices like ginger and turmeric, green tea and wholegrains.
Alongside a healthy diet and exercise, there are other remedies that some people find helpful. “There is some good scientific evidence that Acupuncture can help with things like lower back pain, which is why it is sometimes possible to get it on the NHS through your GP,” says David Vaux.
“However, currently more research is being done to confirm its direct effectiveness for Osteoarthritis. Currently, NICE guidelines do not recommend it for the management of Osteoarthritis. Having said that, I have heard anecdotal evidence to suggest that many of my patients feel the benefits of acupuncture in helping them manage pain from arthritis. With this in mind, anything that can potentially help with pain is worth exploring,” he continues.
“Stiffness and joint pain is often due to shortening of the muscles around that joint. Anything you can do to keep the muscle around the joints in good condition such as massage, stretching and strengthening can help. As a consequence a healthier, more relaxed muscle can assist you in managing the pain and excess inflammation commonly experienced in arthritis,” says David Vaux.
Topical gels & creams
“Arthritis causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints and so one of the first things that many people try are medicines including simple painkillers, or anti-inflammatory rub-on creams and gels. Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy can also help, as can devices such as insoles for shoes or joint splints. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for arthritis, so chat through some of the options with your GP, who can advise based on your individual circumstances,” says Dr Wendy Holden.
When someone suffers from osteoarthritis, the cartilage which helps your joints move smoothly starts to wear down which leads to pain and stiffness. FlexiSEQ is a drug free topical gel which contains tiny droplets called Sequessome vesicles which pass through the skin and lubricate the affected joint to provide pain relief and alleviate stiffness.
Hot & Cold therapy
“Some people may find that an ice pack wrapped in a tea-towel can help reduce the inflammation surrounding an arthritic joint. However, some people find a heat pack or hot water bottle to be more beneficial. Some may even find that both are effective. There is no single life hack that works for everyone. Experiment with the different options and see what works best for you,” says Dr Wendy.
There are many natural supplements which some people find beneficial. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Cod liver oil is a vitamin rich fish oil that has traditionally been used to help alleviate joint pain. It is high in vitamins A and D, it may help with chronic inflammation, and it may help reduce joint pain.
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body. You can buy curcumin as a supplement and also enjoy it in your food.
While there is no scientific evidence that vitamin supplements can reduce the pain of arthritis, some people choose to take them to up their nutrients intake. Vitamins D and K are important for bone health, and vitamin D is important for helping your body function correctly, so it’s worth looking into supplements if you are deficient in these areas.
“Research into arthritis is constantly ongoing, with new developments always being made on the effective treatment and management of arthritis symptoms. There is currently no cure for arthritis, which is why we continue to encourage people to try a variety of self-management techniques to address the physical and mental impacts of living with arthritis,” says Dr Wendy.
“However, using painkillers and sometimes anti-inflammatory medicines sensibly can often make symptoms more bearable. Joint injections can also sometimes help. Try using painkillers before rather than after any form of physical activity, for the best effects. Anti-inflammatory medicines should ideally be used at the lowest possible dose, for the shortest time to avoid harmful side-effects,” she continues.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful. What are your favourite drug free remedies which help you manage the pain of arthritis? Let us know on Facebook.