The term “arthritis” refers to inflammation of one or more joints. The exact cause depends on what type of arthritis is present. The common thread is a firm but flexible tissue called cartilage. Cartilage surrounds the ends of bones in each joint to protect them and absorb shock. The problem occurs when this cartilage deteriorates.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. With this type, protective cartilage wears away over time. In rheumatoid arthritis, the cartilage erodes because the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies it as foreign and begins to attack it. In both types, the end result is the same. After enough cartilage has worn away, the affected joint will no longer function normally.
Most patients with arthritis begin to have pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. This impairs their daily lives. Arthritis pain varies depending on type and severity, but all patients will experience some difficulties with function. In all cases, patients want the pain to go away.
How to alleviate arthritis symptoms on your own
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. Cartilage will not grow back, and you can’t stop the loss of cartilage from occurring. But, you can take steps to reduce or eliminate your symptoms right now. Below are some of the best home remedies available. Discuss these options with your healthcare provider if you have questions:
Wearing a brace can enhance stability, reduce swelling and pressure on the joint, and increase confidence when walking. Braces help to shift bodyweight away from the damaged area. This alleviates pain and discomfort. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, and are most commonly used for knee or ankle pain. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you’re interested in obtaining a brace for arthritis.
Stay physically active. This is one of the best ways to treat arthritis symptoms. It builds strength and improves the flexibility of joints. All forms of exercise can be helpful, but aquatic exercise is particularly recommended because it’s low impact and does not put added pressure on painful joints.
Hot and cold therapy
Apply ice or heat to the affected joint when symptoms arise. Use cold therapy to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain. Use heat to relax muscles and help lubricate joints, which can also relieve muscle and joint stiffness in the process. Start with ice, then alternate with heat to maximize benefits.
If your arthritis is severe enough, a device like a cane, walker, or wheelchair may be necessary to improve your mobility and allow you to get around more easily. Although this may be a difficult adjustment, it’s important to follow your doctor or physical therapist’s instructions and learn how to properly use your device in order to stay mobile.
Some arthritis patients experience immediate joint pain relief from over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and aspirin; talk to your doctor if you’re not sure if these drugs are right for you or how much/how frequently to take them.
Research shows that what you eat can have a significant impact on the amount of inflammation present in your joints. Eating anti-inflammatory foods can actually reduce inflammation and swelling responsible for arthritis symptoms. For example, the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes lots of vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats, has been associated with lower levels of inflammation and may therefore be worth considering.
If you’ve tried everything for your arthritis pain—including all the tips on this list—and your symptoms still haven’t gotten any better, it may be time to see a physical therapist for a comprehensive treatment program. You can ask your doctor for a referral, or you can simply make an appointment on your own. All states allow for some direct access to physical therapy. In addition, most major insurance plans allow coverage for physical therapy treatment.