You wake up in the morning, your knees are stiff and your
lower back aches. Sound familiar?
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United
States. It is one of the most pervasive diseases in the U.S., and according to
the Center for Disease Control. Arthritis is characterized by pain and
inflammation located particularly in the joints throughout the body. More
than 10 million Americans have knee osteoarthritis, the most common form of
Although osteoarthritis cannot be cured, there are ways to
improve your overall health, fitness, and wellbeing by managing the pain
associated with it.
Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle changes a
person can make to aid in coping with the pain of osteoarthritis. Patients who regularly
exercise will have improved mood, improved circulation, healing, and energy.
According to Jessica Black, N.D., a naturopathic physician
based in both Portland and McMinnville, Oregon, exercise reduces pain by
increasing the body’s repairing abilities. Depending on the severity of osteoarthritis,
some individuals may need specific exercise therapy with a qualified physical
therapist to learn what types of exercise will help them most.
Here are some tips for easing pain associated with
osteoarthritis using alternative therapies:
Change your diet to avoid inflammatory foods such as gluten,
dairy, sugar, tomatoes, and potatoes. Include healthy fats such as cold-water
fish and fish oils high in omega-3 fatty acids. Spicy foods—such as
peppers—also have anti-inflammatory properties. Thoroughly chewing your foods
can also help with digestion issues as well.
Eating regular small meals, avoiding sugar, eating more
protein, and consuming less simple carbohydrates can help maintain healthy
blood sugar levels. Maintaining balanced blood sugar helps to facilitate proper
circulation and appropriate healing mechanisms in the body.
Some herbal anti-inflammatory nutritional supplements may
help ease pain, such as turmeric and ginger. Some anti-inflammatory
pharmaceutical medications can be harmful to the stomach, and in addition, have
shown some negative consequences in heart disease. You should, however, seek
your doctor’s advice when taking supplements to avoid any complications with
medication or to prevent an allergic reaction.
Regular exercise can prevent
stiffness in the joints, as well as stimulate circulation and healing. Low-impact
aerobic exercise, such as walking, using an elliptical machine, riding a
bike, swimming, or water aerobics are softest on the joints while providing
maximum health benefits. Other forms of exercise, such as Tai Chi or yoga, can help.
Besides promoting circulation
and healing, exercise promotes weight loss, which is highly beneficial for
people with osteoarthritis. For people with severe osteoarthritis, physical
therapy may first be needed before you start an exercise routine.
Besides those listed above,
these therapies may be beneficial for treating pain associated with
massage can increase the body’s natural healing circulation.
assistance devices (canes or a brace) may help
take the pressure off the joint thereby relieving pain.
oil pack is an old-fashioned remedy to relieve swelling or inflammation, and it
can be made at home in a compress to relieve joint inflammation. Castor oil is
available at most health food stores.
over-the-counter pain reliever creams, such as
arnica, may help.
a lukewarm bath
with lavender oil or Epsom salt.
a cold pack after
exercise can help prevent inflammation