Natural Remedies for Arthritis: 5 Ways to Find Pain Relief

Arthritis is one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions in the United States. Every day, millions of people are suffering from chronic pain, joint stiffness, and a decreased quality of life. 

Conventional medicine focuses on pain management through medication, but while drugs can be effective they’re often not enough, nor are they without their detrimental side effects. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at natural remedies for arthritis that go beyond temporarily reducing pain and inflammation. Combined with guidance from an experienced alternative medicine practitioner, relief from chronic arthritis symptoms is possible.

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammation of your joints that results in chronic pain, among other debilitating symptoms. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, but the three types below are among the most commonly diagnosed [1].

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis diagnosed in older people. 

When joint cartilage breaks down, your bones rub together. This creates joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include obesity, joint injury, aging, and family history [2]. Women may be more prone to osteoarthritis after menopause due to a drop in estrogen, a hormone that helps protect joint cartilage [3]. 

Osteoarthritis can develop anywhere but is most common in the knees, hands, and hips.

There are four stages of osteoarthritis [4]:

  • Grade 1 (Minor): Joints have minor wear and tear. An outgrowth of bone, known as bone spurs, may develop.
  • Grade 2 (Mild): Joints become more painful and stiff. Bone spur growth may increase.
  • Grade 3 (Moderate): The gap between bone and joint becomes more narrow as cartilage breaks down. Joints become inflamed with frequent movement.
  • Grade 4 (Severe): There is little to no cartilage between the joint and bone, leading to chronic joint pain, inflammation, and bone spurs.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects your joints. Your immune system attacks healthy cells in your joints, which then causes joint damage, inflammation, and chronic pain. In addition to stiff and painful joints, rheumatoid arthritis may also cause weight loss, fatigue, and fever [5].

Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis include smoking, obesity, and genetics — particularly, anyone with the HLA-DRB1 gene, which approximately doubles the likelihood of developing the disease [6, 7].

Like many autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose because it shares symptoms with several other conditions. Blood tests may help diagnose the disease if they show elevated levels of erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein, which help measure inflammation in the body.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis develops in patients with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that creates red scaly skin rashes. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include painful joints, swollen fingers and toes, foot pain, and lower back pain (also known as spondylitis). 

This type of arthritis affects about 10% of psoriasis patients [8]. Another key risk factor for psoriatic arthritis includes family history. One study found that patients who had a family history of psoriatic arthritis were nearly 50 times more likely to develop the condition themselves [9]. 

Blood tests, joint fluid tests, and X-rays are often used to diagnose psoriatic arthritis. 

5 Natural Remedies for Arthritis

Arthritis treatment usually consists of over-the-counter or prescription drugs to help manage pain and inflammation. These may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). However, long-term reliance on such medications for arthritis pain is not without its risks. 

Research shows chronic NSAID use can lead to kidney failure, stroke, and intestinal issues [10, 11]. Meanwhile, DMARDs may cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, and skin rashes [12, 13]. In fact, the use of medications that cause damage to the intestinal tract can aggravate arthritis in the long term.

Alternative medicine emphasizes treating the individual instead of arthritis symptoms alone. There is no cure for arthritis, but a functional medicine practitioner will create a holistic treatment plan with natural remedies for arthritis that will focus on the root cause of your condition so you can manage your condition and reduce or even eliminate pain.

Below are five natural remedies for arthritis that may help alleviate chronic pain and discomfort. Bear in mind that while there is sufficient scientific evidence backing up the efficacy of these natural remedies for arthritis..

1. Dietary Changes

There is no one diet designed specifically for arthritis patients. However, an anti-inflammatory diet such as the paleo or Mediterranean diet may, not only help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis, but possibly reduce the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis [14, 15].

A low-sulfur diet may help ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms since sulfur buildup can lead to stiffness and joint pain, puffiness, and swelling. Similarly, a low-histamine diet may also be beneficial for arthritis patients as high histamine levels in the blood can create joint pain. Speak with your doctor or health coach to develop a diet plan that works best for you.

There are several other dietary changes you can make that may provide arthritis pain relief and reduce joint inflammation:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve arthritis symptoms by decreasing inflammation [16, 17, 18]. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, flaxseed oil, and eggs.
  • Turmeric is a spice renowned for its medicinal properties. Arthritis patients may benefit from turmeric’s curcumin content, as this chemical is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease pain and discomfort [19, 20]. 
  • Green tea contains antioxidants that act as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever for arthritis patients [21, 22]. 
  • Some arthritis patients are sensitive to nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. If you suspect nightshades trigger symptoms for you, try eliminating all nightshade vegetables for 2-3 weeks. Monitor your symptoms in the elimination and reintroduction phase.

2. Supplements

Taking daily supplements ensures you’re getting sufficient nutrients to improve and maintain your health, especially if you have a lot of dietary restrictions. 

Supplements that specifically reduce inflammation in the joints and repair cartilage are among the most popular natural remedies for arthritis, especially since they usually have fewer side effects than over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

Glucosamine is a natural tissue that helps cushion joints. With age, your glucosamine levels drop. Taking a daily glucosamine supplement has been shown to reduce joint pain and slow the development of knee osteoarthritis [23]. 

Chondroitin is a compound found in cartilage and bones that also starts to deteriorate with age. A systematic review of chondroitin supplements for osteoarthritis shows that short-term use is successful in alleviating arthritis pain [24]. 

Other supplements that may improve arthritis symptoms include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil supplements) [25]
  • Curcumin and turmeric supplements
  • Vitamin D [26, 27, 28]
  • Ginger [29]

Although supplements may be a safer alternative than medications, you should still consult with your doctor before starting a supplement regimen — especially if you are currently taking medication to avoid any potential drug interactions.

3. Probiotics

Probiotic bacteria are live microorganisms that maintain your gut environment. So how can they be an effective natural remedy for arthritis?

Imbalanced gut bacteria, also known as dysbiosis, is linked to a number of autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis [30]. 

When bad bacteria overtake the gut and eventually make their way into your bloodstream through perforations in your intestine (leaky gut), it can trigger autoimmune responses like joint pain, stiffness, fatigue, and other ailments.

Two systematic reviews suggest taking a high-quality probiotic supplement daily can help heal your gut and alleviate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms [31, 32].

4. Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy may sound counterproductive if you’re suffering from chronic pain, but research shows that manual therapy and exercise can improve range of motion and reduce joint stiffness in arthritis patients [33, 34]. 

In addition to physical therapy, low-impact exercise can provide relief from arthritis symptoms. The keyword here is low-impact as you’ll want to build up your joints without putting too much pressure on them. Some low-impact exercises you can do are tai-chi, walking, bike riding, and water aerobics.

5. Massage Therapy and Acupuncture

Massage therapy for arthritis is used to reduce joint pain and inflammation. One technique for arthritis patients is heat and cold therapy. This is achieved through alternating hot packs and cold packs on the affected joints. The goal of this therapy is to increase blood circulation via heat then add a cold compress to reduce swelling and numb the area [35, 36]. 

Massaging affected joints with a topical capsaicin cream may also provide arthritis pain relief [37, 38]. Capsaicin is a chemical found in chili peppers that creates a numbing sensation by blocking pain neurotransmitters from reaching the brain [x]. 

An alternative to regular massage is acupuncture, a Chinese method of pain relief where tiny needles are placed on your body to stimulate the flow of energy or qi. Research shows that acupuncture can manage arthritis symptoms when performed alongside complementary therapies [39, 40].  

Find Arthritis Pain Relief With Austin Functional Medicine

Living with chronic pain is challenging, but it is possible to find relief through the natural remedies for arthritis listed above. However, you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.

A functional medicine doctor will create a holistic treatment plan that will go beyond simple pain management. The staff at Austin Functional Medicine have experience treating patients with autoimmune disorders and other complex diseases. Work with one of Austin FM’s dedicated and compassionate doctors to create a personalized plan so you’ll no longer have to live a life dictated by arthritis symptoms.

Dr. Ruscio and his team are accepting new patients in-person and through Telehealth. If you’re ready to find natural and effective arthritis relief, click here to make an appointment.

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