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7 Ways to Relieve Arthritis Naturally
Forty million Americans are affected by arthritis! Did you know that you can alleviate this pain using natural, low-cost approaches? These seven natural pain relief practices can be combined to optimize the benefits and achieve synergistic effects. Try them out if you have the symptoms of arthritis, or painful joints in general.
1. Feel the Heat
Heat is your friend in the fight against joint pain. It increases blood flow to muscles, which minimizes cramps and joint stiffness. Using heat to enhance circulation is the principle behind topical treatments like IcyHot, but you can give your blood flow a natural boost just by warming up. Hot showers, good insulation, and a cozy sweater go a long way toward keeping your joints supple and pain-free. To combat intense pain in a large region such as your lower back, a heating pad is a wise investment.
2. Defy Gravity
If heat is your friend, gravity is an enemy— always trying to bring you down. Eliminating gravity helps to decrease the pressure on your weightbearing joints, giving you temporary pain relief and allowing you to strengthen your joints safely. Rather than saving up your hard-earned bucks for a space vacation, consider getting into a warm pool or joining a gym where a heated pool is available to do aquatherapy. Consider joining a gym with a pool, or better yet a spa—your knees will love the combination of heat and weightlessness. The Arthritis foundation offers therapeutic aquatics classes through many hospitals for nominal costs. Check arthritisfoundation.org for locations near you.
3. Move It
Arthritic joints are painful to move, especially when they are flared up and stiff. Staying in motion actually helps to keep the pain at bay. Continued movement by any means necessary is critical for the treatment of pain and stiffness in the mild and moderate stages of arthritis. Methodically increasing your walking tolerance under doctor’s supervision to at least 30 minutes a day is crucial to extending the life of your joints.
4. Lighten Up
Thanks to impact stress, we carry four times our own body weight through our knee joints. This means that every ten pounds of extra weight is like strapping a bowling ball to each knee. Excessive weight on our joints means we are putting significant pressure through our hips, knees and ankles when we run, squat, and climb stairs—causing pain and accelerating arthritis in the process. Imagine how much healthier your joints will be if you can stay close to your ideal body weight! If you are already trying aquatherapy exercise, bravo—you’re on your way to cutting down those extra pounds. Gentle water aerobics burn up to 300 calories per hour. Walking at a slow pace burns about 250.
5. Add Spice
If you like food with a kick, fighting arthritis can be delicious. Take capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their heat. It’s the main ingredient in the prescription pain relief patch Qutenza, but it tastes good in chili, too—and it still confers its circulation-enhancing benefits. Turmeric, which gives curries their yellow color, has been used to reduce inflammation for hundreds of years in ayurvedic medicine. By taking 500mg turmeric capsules three times per day, many patients have reported significant relief from osteoarthritis pain. You can enjoy turmeric’s benefits just by working more of it into your diet. Spices like cayenne pepper and turmeric are healthy and delicious ways to improve circulation and bolster your joints.
6. Get Charged
Electricity is a shocking new weapon in our arsenal against arthritis. Bionicare is a low-level low level electrical stimulator unit for the treatment of arthritis in the knee, tuned to improve damaged tissue. Patients reported significant relief in knee pain after wearing Bionicare units each night for 4-6 weeks. The treatment is still brand-new—it was approved by the FDA in 2004—so you might have to do a little legwork to find a physician who can order this for you. But any measure that relieves arthritis in a safe, natural and lasting way is worth your time and effort.
7. Thank Cod
Another reason to love your omega-3’s is that they are powerhouses of pain relief. The omega-3 fatty acids found in flax and alfalfa seeds produce prostaglandins, which are molecules that your body uses to reduce inflammation. Just three tablespoons a day will help your joints to feel their best, and give your muffins a satisfying crunch. However, the best source of omega-3’s is no mere seed. Cod liver oil is a tailor-made supplement for arthritis, because it cuts both pain and joint degeneration. In a recent study, two teaspoons of cod liver oil per day helped patients to cut down on their pain medication by one third. Talk to your doctor about using cod liver oil supplements to fight pain and regain your mobility, the natural way.
Moshe Lewis MD, MPH, MBA is currently on the Volunteer Clinical Faculty of UCSF. Dr. Lewis also serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Blackwomenshealth.com and is a Medical Contributor for healthyblackmen.org.