Arthritis can be a big pain for adults over the age of 65. If you are one of the 52 million Americans coping with chronic aching of the joints in the knees, hips, feet or hands, you know that this common disease can seriously affect your quality of life.
According to the CDC, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in Americans. Almost 40% of people who live with the deterioration and swelling of their joints report that it restricts their mobility and ability to complete daily tasks.
Medications can offer relief. But anti-inflammatories and painkillers can also cause side effects. Research shows that natural remedies can be used to compliment traditional medicine to effectively increase mobility and to reduce the need for drugs.
There are many products on the market promising pain relief, but the experts warn that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that they are beneficial.
Studies have shown that these natural remedies may ease osteoarthritis pain:
Exercise: Arthritis is a degenerative condition most often caused by wear and tear on weight-bearing cartilage. Our natural instinct is to rest the body to avoid the discomfort. But research has proven that one of the best remedies for the pain is muscle-building exercise, which helps to support the bones.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends a combination of aerobic and flexibility exercises, like yoga or tai-chi, is the most effective method for reducing swelling, decreasing pain and improving mobility.
Weight Loss: If you are overweight, you are more likely to be living with painful arthritis in the knees. Easing the load on weight-bearing joints can have a significant impact. Studies have shown that when overweight seniors shed 10% of their weight, they can maintain their independence and improve their quality of life.
Dietary Changes: Shunning processed foods and high-sugar in your diet may have a substantial effect on arthritis pain. Research published in the Arthritis journal this year demonstrated that after 6 weeks of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, people living with osteoarthritis reported significantly less pain and a great improvement in physical mobility.
The Arthritis Foundation also recommends adding twelve foods to the diet to help fight arthritis inflammation, including fish, soy, extra-virgin olive oil, cherries, broccoli, green tea and nuts.
Heat and Cold Therapy: Physicians at the Cleveland Clinic recommend applying moist heat to ease most osteoarthritis pain. Many pharmacies and retail stores sell heating pads with a moist-heat setting.
A warm shower, a swim in a heated pool, or a soak in the bathtub can also bring relief for arthritis pain.
If your arthritis is causing inflammation in the joints of the hands, feet or knees, cold compresses or an ice pack can be more effective than heat.
Massage: The Arthritis Foundation endorses regular massage therapy to soften stiff joints, improve relaxation and to help stretch muscles. Getting a massage also releases endorphins which reduce soreness and improve mood. Look for a licensed massage therapist who has experience working with people who have arthritis.
Meditation: The National Institutes of Health says that non-conventional relaxation techniques can alleviate stress, distract you from pain, and help you cope with flare-ups. While no scientific evidence supports direct medical benefits of quietly meditating, neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin found that it significantly reduced stress, which can be a source of arthritis inflammation.
Always consult with your doctor before starting an exercise or weight loss program, or trying any other natural pain-relief approach.