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.
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:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat go to our main Home Remedies page.
- Arthritis can be a potentially debilitating disease, significantly limiting the patient's ability to move. Herbs have been used to treat the pain and swelling of arthritis for centuries. Find out how in Herbal Remedies for Arthritis.
- To learn how to live a full and happy life despite your arthritis, read How to Adjust to Life With Arthritis.
- For tips on warding off joint discomfort, read How to Prevent Arthritis Pain.
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.