When joint pain flares up, you want relief—fast. But you might not want to pop a pain reliever, especially if you’re concerned about side effects or interactions with other drugs. Or maybe meds alone aren’t doing enough, so you’re looking to add a drug-free remedy to your arsenal. Ice and heat are great, but they’re not your only options. Here are 7 more natural ways to fight inflammation and ease your ache. (The Power Nutrient Solution is the first-ever plan that tackles the root cause of virtually every major ailment and health condition today; get your copy now!)
The scientific proof that acupuncture improves osteoarthritis pain is a little iffy. (Studies have been mixed, and it’s hard to rule out the placebo effect.) But a 2013 research review did conclude that there’s some evidence that this alternative treatment improves pain and stiffness in people with fibromyalgia(an arthritis-like condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain). So if you’re not averse to needles, book a few sessions. Just remember that frequent visits may be needed before you see results, and most insurance plans won’t cover it, says Sheryl Mascarenhas, MD, an assistant professor of rheumatology at The Ohio State University. (See what else acupuncture can treat.)
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Swimming, water aerobics, and other aquatic activities “promote flexibility and strength without high impact,” says Mark Karadsheh, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. A 2014 review in the journal Physical Therapy found that exercising in water reduces pain and improves physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis of the lower limbs. Meanwhile, a 2015 study from The Netherlands found that a 45-minute aquatic circuit training session helped relieve the pain of knee osteoarthritis.
Capsaicin, a substance responsible for the heat in hot peppers, is also used in topical pain-relieving creams and ointments. “It temporarily uses up substance P [a brain chemical that stimulates pain receptors], which redirects nerves so you don’t feel pain in the joint,” explains Mascarenhas, who notes that it can provide significant relief. In fact, a study from Case Western Reserve University found that 80% of people with osteo or rheumatoid arthritis had less pain after applying capsaicin cream four times a day for 2 weeks.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (both found in human cartilage) are popular for treating the pain and swelling associated with osteoarthritis. Studies on their effectiveness have been mixed, but a 2015 research review determined that this combo significantly reduces pain and improves functioning in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. “There’s no risk associated with taking them so they’re worth a shot,” says Karadsheh.
It’s no secret that omega-3 fatty acids, including fish oil supplements, have anti-inflammatory properties. It turns out these supplements also could help aching joints feel better. A 2015 study from Thailand found that when people with osteoarthritis of the knee took 1,000 mg of fish oil supplements (a combination of EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid, and DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid) once a day for 8 weeks, their pain decreased and their functioning improved significantly. Other research has found that getting more omega-3s enabled people with rheumatoid arthritis to reduce their reliance on NSAIDs.
Practicing tai chi is a low-impact way to strengthen the muscles around your joints and increase your range of motion, says Karadsheh. A 2013 review of seven randomized controlled trials found that a 12-week tai chi program improves symptoms of pain, stiffness, and physical function in peopl