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40 Home Remedies for Arthritis

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Osteoarthritis causes joints to become irritated and inflamed.

An estimated 43 million Americans are caught in the grip of some form of arthritis or joint problem. And few of us will make it to a ripe old age without joining the fold. If one of these diseases has a hold on you, read on. While there are no cures, in this article we will examine 40 home remedies that can ease your discomfort and give you more control over your life. Let's get started with some general information about arthritis.

Understanding Arthritis

There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis, with a host of causes, according to the Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta. Among the more widely known forms are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common form.

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Osteoarthritis is primarily marked by a breakdown and loss of joint cartilage. Cartilage is the tough tissue that separates and cushions the bones in a joint. As cartilage is worn away and the bones begin to rub against each other, the joint becomes irritated. In osteoarthritis, this breakdown of cartilage is accompanied by minimal inflammation, hardening of the bone beneath the cartilage, and bone spurs (growths) around the joints. Most people develop some osteoarthritis as they age.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is not an inevitable aspect of the aging process. For reasons unknown, the synovial membrane, or lining, of a joint becomes inflamed, resulting in pain, swelling, heat, and redness. Symptoms vary from individual to individual. It its mildest form, rheumatoid arthritis causes minor joint discomfort. More often, the inflammation causes painful, stiff, swollen joints, and in prolonged cases, severe joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to cause body-wide symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, and weight loss.

In the case of gout, needle-shaped uric acid crystals collect in the joints, due to a fault in the body's ability to metabolize, or process, purines. Purines are naturally occurring chemicals found in certain foods, such as liver, kidney, and anchovies. The disease primarily targets overweight, fairly inactive men over the age of 35.

Lupus, on the other hand, affects many more women than men. It is a condition in which the body's own immune system attacks healthy cells. The symptoms are wide ranging, from joint pain to mouth sores to persistent fatigue.

Fortunately, there are many home remedies for protecting your joints and relieving joint pain. In the next section, we will take a look at some basic methods for alleviating arthritis symptoms.

For more information about arthritis and how to cope with its symptoms, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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©2007 Publications International, Ltd. If you find even simple movements difficult, a pool may be the perfect environment for exercise.

There is no cure for arthritis, but you can adopt a variety of coping techniques that will leave you more active and in control of your life. Here are some home remedies to help relieve discomfort and get you back into the swing of things.

Keep moving. Maintain movement in your joints as best you can. This can help keep your joints functioning better for a longer amount of time and, at the same time, brighten your outlook on life. Walking, gardening, and even housecleaning can help your joints.

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Exercise, exercise, exercise. There are different types of exercises that are used to help arthritis sufferers. The simplest, easiest exercises that can and should be done by almost any arthritis sufferer every day are called range-of-motion exercises. These flexibility exercises help maintain good movement by putting the joints through their full range of motion. They can help reduce the risk of joint injury, and they provide a great warm-up for more rigorous exercise.

Aerobic exercises (an activity is aerobic if you continuously move the large muscles of the body to raise the heart rate and increase breathing), such as walking and swimming, not only help tone muscles and increase their endurance, but they also improve heart, blood vessel, and lung health and are useful for weight loss. Weight-baring aerobic exercises, such as walking or playing tennis (as opposed to swimming, in which the water holds you up), also strengthen the bones. You should try to gradually work up to doing at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.

Finally, resistance exercises should be included two or three times a week to strengthen the muscles that support and help protect the joints. Isometric exercises, in which you create resistance by tightening a muscle without moving the joint, can be especially good for people with arthritis. Certain isotonic exercises, in which you strengthen the muscles while moving the joints (leg lifts and arm curls using light weights are examples of this type), may also be okay. To determine which strengthening exercises are best for you and to learn how to do them safely and effectively, consult your doctor or physical therapist.

Give your hands a water workout. Try doing your hand exercises in a sink full of warm water for added ease and comfort.

Don't overdo it. If exercise makes your pain worse, cut back on the frequency and amount of exercise. Of course, if the activity brought relief, you've found a worthwhile exercise to continue. Tailor your routine to include the exercises that give you the most relief, and the most enjoyment.

Play in a pool. If you find even simple movements difficult, a heated pool or whirlpool may be the perfect environment for exercise (unless you are pregnant, in which case you should avoid heated whirlpools and hot tubs, or have other chronic health problems, in which case you should get your doctor's approval first). Try a few of your simpler exercises while in the water. The buoyancy will help reduce the strain on your joints. Warm water helps loosen joints and makes muscles more pliable. In a pinch, a hot shower may do: Running the stream of water down your back, for instance, may help relieve back stiffness and discomfort.

Don't overuse over-the-counter (OTC) creams. These arthritis rubs may provide temporary relief by heating up the joints. However, using them too often may activate enzymes that can break down the cartilage in the joints.

Use OTC pain relievers with care. Over-the-counter medications that ease pain, such as the analgesic acetaminophen, aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen and naproxen, and generally safe, relatively inexpensive, and can be very beneficial for arthritis sufferers. However, because even nonprescription drugs can have side effects, and some shouldn't be used by certain individuals, it's important for you to discuss the options with your doctor first. This is especially true for the many arthritis sufferers who need to use one of these drugs on a regular basis. And once you've had that discussion, be sure to follow your doctor's directions for use of these products carefully to avoid potentially serious reactions. For a list of precautions to take before using OTC pain relievers, click here.

Put on a scarf. Not around your neck, but around the elbow or knee joint when it aches; the added warmth may bring some relief. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly, however.

Pull on a pair of stretch gloves. The tightness may help reduce the swelling in arthritic fingers, and the warmth created by covered hands may make the joints feel better. Wearing thermal underwear may help, too.

Get electric gloves. Hunters use these battery-operated mitts to keep their hands toasty on cold mornings in the woods, but they may help people with arthritis, too. Wear them all night while you sleep.

Get "down." Goose down blankets warm up the joints and help ease pain. For those who are allergic to down, an electric blanket may bring some relief.

Watch your weight. Being overweight puts more stress on the joints. As a matter of fact, a weight gain of 10 pounds can mean an equivalent stress increase of 40 pounds on the knees. So if you are carrying excess pounds, losing weight can help improve joint function.

Question any cure-all. Frustrated by the chronic pain of arthritis, some sufferers pursue a litany of promises for 100 percent relief, whether from a so-called miracle drug, a newfangled diet, or some other alternative treatment. Unfortunately, at this time, arthritis has no cure. So, before you jump at the next hot-sounding testimonial, proceed with caution. Get all the facts. Consult your physician or other health-care provider. Even age-old techniques, such as wearing a copper bracelet, should be viewed with skepticism, agree most experts. And remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

While these tips can help relieve some of the pain, the best cure is to prevent your joints from getting injured in the first place.  In the next section, we'll look at home remedies that can help protect your joints.

For more information about arthritis and how to cope with its symptoms, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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Prepare a written schedule to help you organize your tasks and conserve your energy.

In addition to easing discomfort, you can learn to live well with arthritis by protecting your joints. What's more, with a little planning and reorganizing, you can learn to do daily tasks more efficiently, so that you'll have more energy to spend on activities you enjoy. Here are some home remedies from the Arthritis Foundation that can help.

Plan ahead each day. Prepare a realistic, written schedule of what you would like to accomplish each day. That way, you can carry out your most demanding and essential tasks and activities when you think you'll have the most energy and enthusiasm, in the morning, for instance, if that's when you usually feel best.

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Spread the strain. As a general rule, you want to avoid activities that involve a tight grip or that put too much pressure on your fingers. Use the palms of both hands to lift and hold cups, plates, pots, and pans, rather than gripping them with your fingers or with only one hand. Place your hand flat against a sponge or rag instead of squeezing it with your fingers. Avoid holding a package or pocketbook by clasping the handle with your fingers. Instead, grasp your goods in the crook of your arm, the way a football player holds the ball as he's running across the field, and you won't be tackled by as much pain.

Avoid holding one position for a long time. Keeping joints "locked" in the same position for any length of time will only add to your stiffness and discomfort. Relax and stretch your joints as often as possible.

"Arm" yourself. Whenever possible, use your arm instead of your hand to carry out an activity. For example, push open a heavy door with the side of your arm rather than with your hand and outstretched arm.

Take a load off. Sitting down to complete a task whenever possible will keep your energy level up much longer than if you stand. But remember not to sit in the same position for too long.

Replace doorknobs and round faucet handles with long handles. They require a looser, less stressful grip (or no grip at all) to operate, so you'll put less strain on your joints.

Build up the handles on your tools. For a more comfortable grip, look for household tools, utensils, and writing implements that have chunky, padded handles. Or tape a layer or two of thin foam rubber, or a foam rubber hair curler, around the handles of brooms, mops, rakes, spatulas, knives, pens, and pencils.

Let automatic appliances do the work for you. Electric can openers and knives, for instance, are easier to operate than manual versions. An electric toothbrush has a wider handle than a regular toothbrush.

Keep your stuff within easy reach. Adjust the shelves and racks in any storage area so that you don't have to strain to reach the items you need. Buy clothes with pockets to hold things you use often and need close by, like a pair of glasses or pen and paper. Use an apron with pockets to carry cleaning supplies with you as you do your household chores.

Use a "helping hand" to extend your reach. For those items you can't store within arm's reach, buy a long-handled gripper, the kind used in grocery shops to grab items from top shelves. Make household chores easier with a long-handled or extendable feather duster or scrub brush. Grab your clothes from the dryer with an extended-reach tool to avoid bending and stooping over and over.

Go with Velcro. Interlocking cloth closures (better known as Velcro) on clothing and shoes can save you the frustration of buttoning or lacing with stiff, painful fingers.

Walk this way up and down the stairs. Lead with your stronger leg going up, and lead with your weaker leg coming down.

Bend with your knees. When reaching for or lifting something that's low or on the ground, bend your knees and keep your back straight as you lift.

Let loose with loops. You won't need quite as tight a grip if you put loops around door handles, such as those on the refrigerator and oven. Have loops sewn on your socks, too, and then use a long-handled hook to help you pull them up.

Dig out that little red wagon. Heavier loads will be out of your hands if you use a wagon or cart that glides along on wheels. Use it to tote groceries or baskets of laundry, for instance.

Sit on a stool in the tub. A specially made stool can give you a steady place to shower and can ease your way in and out of the tub.

Plant yourself on a stool in the garden. Sitting, rather than stooping, over your flowerbeds or vegetable garden may help reduce the stress on your back and legs.

Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask your family members or friends for assistance when you need it. As the saying goes, many hands make light work. By sharing the load, you'll have more time and energy for the people and activities you enjoy.

In the next section, we'll examine natural home remedies, including everyday items found in your kitchen cupboard, that can provide relief from arthritis.

For more information about arthritis and how to cope with its symptoms, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Fatty acids, like those in fish, can reduce joint inflammation.

Kitchen-crafted remedies can help ease the pain of arthritis. Read on to learn the benefits of everyday items like Epsom salts, aspartame, and dairy products.

Home Remedies From the Sink

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to deciding whether heat, cold, or a combination of the two, will give you the best results. Experiment with hot and cold compresses to see what helps you most.

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Hot compresses. Heat relieves pain primarily by relaxing muscles and joints and decreasing stiffness. In some instances, however, heat may aggravate a joint that's already "hot" from inflammation, as is sometimes the case with rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, osteoarthritis causes minimal inflammation and may respond well to heat application. You can make a heat compress with a hot, moist towel. If you find that your hot compress cools down quickly, you may want to try methods that offer more consistent heating. An electric blanket or heating pad can provide sustained dry heat. A warm shower, bath, or whirlpool can keep the wet heat coming. You can also purchase, at many drugstores and variety stores, a product consisting of a sealed, soft cloth pouch (often cylindrical in shape) filled with a natural grain that, when heated in the microwave and placed on the sore area, supplies more portable moist heat (one such product is named Bed Buddy). Using some method of warmth to loosen up the muscles before exercise can help them perform better.

Cold compresses. Cold puts the chill on joints that are "hot" from inflammation. Cold is ordinarily used to reduce pain in specific joints and can be helpful if you have gout. Cold application should not be used if you have vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) or Raynaud's Phenomenon (a condition, characterized by spasms of the arteries in the fingers and toes, that may occur in conjunction with rheumatoid arthritis) without a doctor's approval, however. There are many ways to make a cold compress. You can run cold water in the sink and soak a washcloth in it. Or, you can use a plastic bag filled with crushed ice, a package of frozen peas, or a pack of blue ice, for example. Apply the cold compress to only one or two joints at a time, so you don't get a chill, and be sure to keep a thin cloth or towel between the ice pack and the skin to prevent frostbite.

You may find that alternating heat and cold gives you the most relief. For the best results, the Arthritis Foundation recommends the contrast bath: Soak your hands and feet in warm water (no more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit) for about three minutes, then soak them in cold water (about 65 degrees Fahrenheit) for about a minute. Repeat this process three times, and finish with a warm-water soak.

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Aspartame. Drink your way to pain relief with a sugar-free soda pop. A research experiment published in the scientific journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics noted that aspartame--an artificial sweetener found in the brands Equal and NutraSweet--provides relief that's comparable to anti-inflammatory agents. Ask your doctor about the study and exactly how much you should drink.

 

 

Epsom salts. Magnesium sulfate, otherwise known as Epsom salts, is commonly used as a soak to relieve aching joints and reduce swelling. Mix a few heaping teaspoons into bath water and soak. More localized soaks are sometimes necessary, especially for the feet. Rest painful feet in a tub of warm water combined with 2 tablespoons Epsom salts.

Dairy products. Some medicines used to treat arthritis can lead to a loss of calcium from the bones, resulting in osteoporosis. To counteract this effect (and to keep healthy in general) make sure you get enough calcium in your diet. A cup of low-fat yogurt, for instance, supplies 300 to 400 mg calcium--about one-third of the adult daily requirement. Calcium-fortified orange juice will also help you meet your daily calcium needs.

Note: GLA is a blood thinner, so if you take NSAIDs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), anticoagulant medications, or blood-thinning supplements, you increase your risk of uncontrolled bleeding.

Calcium. The Recommended Daily Allowance is 1,000 mg calcium per day for women prior to menopause and 1,200 to 1,500 mg after menopause. Men require 1,000 to 1,300 mg per day. If you don't get enough calcium in your diet, be sure to supplement to protect your bones.

Natural home remedies don't only come from the spice rack or stovetop. Little adjustments in the kitchen environment may make a big difference in protecting arthritic joints from injury or excessive strain.  

  • Buy kitchen drawer pulls with long, thin handles. These require a looser, less stressful grip.  
  • More padding means less pain. On tools that require a grip, such as brooms and mops, tape a layer of thin foam rubber around the handles and fasten with tape.  
  • Use lightweight pots and pans with comfortable handles.  
  • Pick up objects on the floor with a pair of long-handled pinchers (or a gripper).                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Transport groceries or heavy items from car to kitchen using a wagon or cart.  
  • Use loops made of soft but strong fabric or rope to pull the refrigerator and oven doors open without strain.

Arthritis is a common condition that cannot be cured, but fortunately its symptoms can be alleviated by the 40 home remedies outlined in this article. Try these home remedies and see which help your condition. And remember, see your doctor if you can't find relief.

For more information about arthritis and how to cope with its symptoms, try the following links:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.

Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.

Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.

ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

 

 

 

 

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