Natural remedies and exercises for arthritis pain

Jane Murphy / 26 May 2016

From listening to music to learning to meditate: there are ways to reduce the pain of arthritis without medication. Could these tips work for you?



1. Lose weight

Easier said than done? Not necessarily – and every little helps. 'Losing weight is probably the single most important thing you can do to prevent the development or progression of osteoarthritis,' says Dr Paul Stillman from Talking Knees (www.talkingknees.co.uk).  'When you stand, you put your entire weight through your body. This force increases as it goes downwards, so your hips, knees and ankles take most of the strain. When you lift one foot off the ground to walk, that force increases. The stress through the other leg is your body weight plus around 50 per cent. Run or climb stairs and the load is even higher.'

How to help your knees

2. Investigate AposTherapy

This unique method of pain management involves wearing specially designed, personally adjusted shoes for an hour each day. The theory? Knee pain and osteoarthritis are influenced by the way you walk. So AposTherapy changes the distribution of weight and retrains the muscles to adopt an optimal walking pattern. In a clinical study of 1,300 UK AposTherapy patients, almost nine out of 10 noticed a reduction in pain. Find out more at www.apostherapy.co.uk.

3. Listen to your favourite music

The key word here is distraction. Music can shift your focus away from your pain, as well as lift your mood. One US study, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, found that listening to music reduced chronic pain by up to 21 cent.

 How music can benefit your health

4. Sign up for a Spinning class

Now, don't roll your eyes! High-intensity workouts, such as Spinning, may prove hugely beneficial for both long- and short-term pain management, according to a recent Norwegian study.

Women with arthritis who took part in a Spinning class twice a week for 10 weeks saw a marked reduction in inflammation, as well as – unsurprisingly – an improvement in their cardiovascular fitness. Do check with your GP before signing up, though.

Learn more about inflammation and how it affects your body

5. Give Tai Chi a try

Prefer a more gentle form of exercise? Tai chi is effective at reducing pain levels and disability, according to a major review by scientists at The George Institute in Sydney. 'The fact that tai chi is inexpensive, convenient and enjoyable, and conveys other psychological and social benefits, supports the use of this type of intervention for painful conditions such as arthritis,' insists lead researcher Amanda Hall.

Learn more about Tai Chi

6. Drink some green tea

A chemical found in green tea – the snappily named EGCG – has the potential to address the joint pain, inflammation and tissue damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis. That's according to a study at Washington State University, which looked at how effectively EGCG blocks the symptoms of arthritis without blocking other important cellular functions.

The health benefits of tea and coffee explained

7. Learn to meditate

People who meditate regularly find pain easier to manage because their brains anticipate it less, say scientists from Manchester University. 'Meditation trains the brain to be more present-focused and therefore to spend less time anticipating future negative events,' explains lead researcher Dr Christopher Brown.

Another recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that mindfulness meditation can be more effective than medication because it trains the brain to respond differently to pain.

Could your hobby help you experience the benefits of mindfulness?

8. Get out in the sun

Vitamin D, which is produced through sun exposure, may ease arthritis pain and boost mobility by lowering inflammation and strengthening bones, according to a study from the University of Florida. Getting plenty of sunshine will also lift your mood, of course, which can make pain easier to manage.

Sunshine – now the good news!

9. Get a good night's sleep

You probably don't need us to tell you that a poor night's rest can aggravate arthritis symptoms – while the pain itself is often responsible for preventing sleep in the first place. But it's not the only culprit: taking steps to address other contributing factors, such as depression, anxiety and obesity, can ensure you sleep better and so experience less pain, says a study from the American College of Rheumatology.

10 healthy reasons to get a better night’s sleep

10. Try acupuncture

Acupuncture relieves pain by changing the painful sensations that are sent to the brain from damaged tissues and by stimulating the body's pain-relieving hormones – but repeated sessions are usually needed to ensure long-term relief. Find an acupuncturist at the British Acupuncture Council.

Complementary treatments for arthritis

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.