Arthritis is a common condition, especially as we get older, but that doesn’t make the pain any less difficult to deal with it. Affecting more than 10 million people in the UK alone, arthritis is not a single condition, but rather a term that covers joint pain and disease in general, with symptoms including pain, stiffness, swelling and a decreased range of motion.
But what helps arthritis pain? While, there is no cure for arthritis, there are things you can do to make the pain easier to live with. Here are some tips that can help:
Switch up your diet
When it comes to foods that are good for arthritis, it’s no surprise that fatty fish, fruit and certain vegetables top the list. Fish such as salmon and mackerel are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being a good source of vitamin D. Broccoli has also been linked to reduced inflammation, with one study finding that increased intake of vegetables such as broccoli helped to reduced levels of inflammatory markers. Spinach, walnuts, berries and grapes are other foods that have also been linked to reduced joint pain and inflammation.
Not only do spices help food taste delicious, certain spices have also been shown to inhibit inflammatory pathways in the body, making them a great anti-inflammatory source. Cayenne, ginger, garlic and cinnamon have all been linked to anti-inflammatory properties but turmeric is the real wonder-spice. Turmeric is good for arthritis as it contains curcumin, an antioxidant which has been shown in multiple studies to help reduce pain and inflammation.
The pain of arthritis can make exercise unappealing but its role is crucial in managing symptoms. As well as reducing joint pain, exercise can also increase strength and flexibility and help you to maintain a healthy weight. Stick to low impact aerobic exercise to avoid extra stress on the joints, such as walking, cycling or swimming, alongside strengthening exercises such as weight training. Wearing a medical grade support or brace during exercise will also help support weak or arthritic joints and provide added stability.
Speak to your GP or a physiotherapist to ensure you embark on a program that won’t damage your joints further.
Manage your weight
Excess weight puts more pressure on your joints and can lead to the inflammation that causes arthritis symptoms, so if you’re even slightly over your recommended weight it can have an effect. Considering a weight loss programme can really help. As well as often feeling happier and healthier you’ll likely find your pain decreases - a study in 2013 found that adults with arthritis who lost weight over a period of 18 months reported less knee pain than those who didn’t follow a weight loss program.
Try hot and cold therapy
Applying hot and cold therapy to your joints can help with your symptoms. The heat can help reduce pain and stiffness in the joints, while the cold therapy can ease joint swelling and soothe aches and pains. Hot and cold packs are easy to use and can be used in conjunction with other supports for ease. Applying heat can also help improve blood flow and circulation to the joints, relieving pain. If your pain is in your wrists, hands or fingers try an Arthritis Glove, which can help combat pain by protecting against cold temperatures and providing warmth and compression.
Get a massage
A massage is a great way to relax but did you know it can also be good for your arthritis? Regular massage of painful muscles and joints can help reduce pain in people with arthritis, whether it’s done a by a professional or the use of self-massage at home. As well as helping you to relax and reducing stress and anxiety levels, massage has also been shown to improve circulation, helping to relieve pain. Ensure you consult with a trained massage therapist who will be able to understand your needs and avoid causing injury.
Get a good night’s sleep
Pain and lack of sleep can become a vicious cycle, with arthritis pain making it hard to sleep, and a lack of sleep making your arthritis pain seem worse. Break the cycle by investing in a supportive mattress or pillow, and establishing a good sleep routine to get your body prepped and ready for sleep. This might involve meditating, listening to relaxing music or having a warm bath, which will also help ease joint pain before you head to bed.
Consult with a professional
Living with arthritis can be painful and frustrating but you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you’re continuing to struggle with pain, speak to your GP. A doctor will be able to advise on a plan for treatment, including pain relief and medication, as well as the possibility of referring you for other therapies, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy, which could help your symptoms.
Thank you for reading.
Effects of Intensive Diet and Exercise on Knee Joint Loads, Inflammation, and Clinical Outcomes Among Overweight and Obese Adults With Knee Osteoarthritis. JAMA. 2013;310(12):1263-1273
Dietary factors and biomarkers of systemic inflammation in older people: the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936
J Med Food. 2016 Aug 1; 19(8): 717–729.
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Read more in our full Hot & Cold Therapy post.
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