Remedies for Arthritis Pain
Chamomile Oil Massage
The soothing flower works wonders outside of its use as a calming herbal tea. Massaging your achy joints with topical chamomile oil can significantly reduce your need for acetaminophen, finds a recent report published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Chamomile contains terpenoids and flavonoids, natural chemical compounds with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and pain-killing properties.
Close your medicine cabinet and head to the kitchen—the cure is in your curry. Turmeric, a traditional Indian spice, has been shown to improve pain severity, stiffness, and functional limitations from arthritis, according to a study published in Inflammopharmacology.
Fresh shaved, sprinkled, chopped, or bottled, It's the active ingredient, gingerol, It delivers a dose of relief to tense trouble spots. In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties of ginergol inhibit the same pain-causing enzymes as ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, according to a report in the journal Arthritis.
Shave some slices and steep in boiling water for a soothing tea, recommends Bill Phillips, Men's Health editor-in-chief and author of The Better Man Project. Not only do its anti-inflammatory properties make it useful to people with arthritis, bursitis, or tendonitis, but it can also help relieve gas, nausea, motion sickness, allergies, and bad breath, says Phillips.
Tart cherries instead of pills. Like NSAIDs, cherries ease pain by inhibiting COX enzymes that trigger the production of inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins, note Job Teitlebaum, MD, and Bill Gottllieb, CHD, authors of Real Cause, Real Cure. What's more, cherries' deep red color means they're rich in flavonoids and antioxidants that help curb your chronic pain. Eating just 10 to 20 tart cherries a day or sipping 32 ounces of cherry juice delivers the same dose of pain-fighting cherry extract as six tablets of a neuropathic pain medicine. I use tart cherry juice concentrate.
Drinking wine can ward off early symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, according to recent research from the UK. Drinkers who sipped 4 to 6 glasses of vino a week were 45 percent less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis than those who abstained from alcohol. But it's not alcohol that contains the antidote for better health; it's the specific ingredients found in wine that keep your creaks from becoming more serious. (Beer drinkers actually increased their risk of arthritis!)
Limit yourself to one 12-ounce glass, though. "Drinking in moderation (about 1 drink a day or less) has been shown to decrease circulating biomarkers of systemic inflammation," says Karen Costenbader, MD, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Tai chi is a tame form of martial arts, but it's your best defense against pain. Since pain and stiffness can worsen with either excessive movement or inactivity, this gentle movement strikes the perfect balance. In a University of North Carolina study, people who performed a tai chi program regularly for eight weeks saw significant improvements in arthritis pain, stiffness, and sleeplessness due to pain. Those who added a 60-minute routine twice a week improved their arthritis symptoms by 7 percent, and even better, reported noted psychological benefits such as an increased sense of well-being.
Much like tai chi, yoga will stretch and relieve tension throughout your entire body, says Sari Harrar, author of Relief At Last!. The slow, controlled movements of yoga give you the exercise you need to stay fit and nimble while also helping you build muscle for a stronger structural foundation.
Keep your knee in line: Wrapping your achy areas with athletic tape can immediately reduce malalignment and the pain that follows, finds an Australian study. Whether your knees are offset, under pressure during tough workouts, or feeling the twinge of constant pain, taping your joint is a simple way to support your body under pressure. Visit a physical therapist for the best tape-and-wrapping method for your particular pain.
The gym may seem like the last thing you feel motivated to do when your bones ache, but idling will only worsen your pain, says Jordan Metzl, MD, and author of The Exercise Cure. Research indicates that inactivity may actually cause cartilage to thin out—a dire consequence when you're dealing with arthritis.
Grab a pair of dumbbells and try this at-home workout to strengthen the muscles around the joints so your bone surface absorbs less pressure, says Metzl. (Research found that stronger thighs reduced the risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee!)
Perform 2 sets of 10 reps for each move.
Stand as tall as you can with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Place your fingers on the back of your head and pull your elbows and shoulders back, keeping your chest raised. Lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees, as if you're about to sit in a chair. Pause, then slowly push yourself back to the standing position.
Make It Easier: Grip the arms of a chair for extra support as you lower yourself.
Overhead Dumbbell Squat
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells (about 5 pounds, depending on what feels comfortable to you) straight over your shoulders, with your palms facing out and your arms completely straight. Brace your core and lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Pause, then slowly push your back to the starting position.
Make It Easier: Set aside your dumbbells. Focus on keeping your torso as upright as possible to maintain your balance and stretching your arms straight—not dipping forward.
Grab a pair of dumbbells (5 to 10 pounds or so) and hold them at arm's length next to your sides, your palms facing each other. Keep your core tight as you step forward with your left leg and slowly lower your lower body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Pause, then push yourself back to the starting position quickly. Complete 10 reps on your left side then 10 reps on your right—that's 1 set.
Make It Easier: If you feel wobbly with dumbbells, try placing your hands on your hips instead. Focus on keeping your core contracted to stay straight, and maintain your balance.
Low Side-to-Side Lunge
Dumbbells are optional here. Stand with your feet about twice shoulder-width apart and your toes facing straight. Shift your weight over to your left leg as you push your hips backward, and lower your body by dropping your hips and bending your knees. Your lower right leg should remain nearly perpendicular to the floor, while your left foot is flat on the floor. Without raising yourself back up to standing, shift your position to the right side—that's 1 rep. Continue to alternate back and forth for 10 reps.
Make It Easier: Modify this move by placing your hands on your hips without the dumbbells.
Take a Dip
When bad weather attacks your usual workout, or if strength training still seems tough, try a low-impact option, says Dr. Metzl. Swimming and cycling are great ways to stay in shape without putting pressure on shaky joints.
Use a foam roller to relieve the tension in the muscles that surround your trouble spots like your back or knees, recommends Dr. Metzl. Go on a roll once a day and complete a full-body foam roll routine that targets your hamstrings, calves, quads, groin, and back. Keeping these large muscle groups limber will better support your joint movement and mobility.
Roll slowly for about 30 seconds on each part of your leg and lower back, but if you hit a tender spot, stay on it for 30 to 90 seconds, says Dr, Metzl.
I foam roll every day.