Arthritis: Natural ways to reduce pain and inflammation
Arthritis is very common problem that causes joint pain and inflammation.
It affects millions of people of all ages in the UK, especially those of us fortunate enough to be in the over 40s club.
And while there is no cure for arthritis...
There are things that you can do that have been shown to reduce pain, increase flexibility, and help reduce inflammation. We've listed them in order of importance for potential significant improvements.
'What you can do today'
Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight can significantly impact the joints, especially the knees and ankles.
In fact, for every pound of body weight carried, an additional four pounds of pressure is placed on the knees. (1)
This means that even losing a small amount of weight can make a big difference in alleviating the strain on these joints, thereby reducing arthritis pain.
Regular exercise, especially walking
Gentle low-impact exercises, such as walking or swimming, can help improve joint flexibility and strength while reducing pain associated with arthritis. (2) Even a 10 minute walk can make a big difference, and walking 30 minutes a day is perhaps the single best thing you do for your health.
Drinking more water
Drinking enough water helps in maintaining joint lubrication, reducing joint stiffness, and promoting overall joint health.(3)
Omega-3 fatty acids
Good sources are salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts. The have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Research indicates that consuming omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. (4)
Antioxidants help combat oxidative stress, which can contribute to inflammation and joint damage in arthritis sufferers.
Foods high in antioxidants include berries, dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. A study found that consuming more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. (5)
Whole wheat, brown rice and quinoa are a good source of fibre, which can help reduce inflammation.
Research has shown that people who consume more whole grains tend to have lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. (6)
Turmeric and ginger
They have been found to possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate arthritis symptoms.
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain in people with osteoarthritis.(7) Ginger has also been found to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). (8)
Reducing sugar and process foods
Sugar and processed foods can contribute to inflammation in the body, and you'll be surprised and the difference cutting back on these can make how you're feeling. (9)
Mindfulness and meditation
Techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga, can help manage the stress and anxiety often associated with chronic pain conditions like arthritis. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can lead to a reduction in pain and improved overall well-being. (10)
(1) Messier, S. P. (1994). Osteoarthritis of the knee and associated factors of age and obesity: effects on gait. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26(12), 1446-1452.
(2) Fransen, M., McConnell, S., Harmer, A. R., Van der Esch, M., Simic, M., & Bennell, K. L. (2015). Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee: a Cochrane systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(24), 1554-1557. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2015-095424
(3) Zhang, Y., Zhang, Y., & Li, Y. (2019). Association between hydration status and body composition in healthy adolescents. Medicine, 98(14), e15083
(4) Calder, P. C. (2017). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochemical Society Transactions, 45(5), 1105-1115. https://doi.org/10.1042/BST20160474
(5) Pattison, D. J., Silman, A. J., Goodson, N. J., Lunt, M., Bunn, D., Luben, R., ... & Khaw, K. T. (2004). Vitamin C and the risk of developing inflammatory polyarthritis: prospective nested case-control study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 63(7), 843-847. https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2003.016097
(6) Qi, L., van Dam, R. M., Liu, S., Franz, M., Mantzoros, C., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Whole-grain, bran, and cereal fiber intakes and markers of systemic inflammation in diabetic women. Diabetes Care, 29(2), 207-211. https://doi.org/10.2337/diacare.29.02.06.dc05-1903
(7) Daily, J. W., Yang, M., & Park, S. (2016). Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of Medicinal Food, 19(8), 717-729. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2016.3705
(8) Terry, R., Posadzki, P., Watson, L. K., & Ernst, E. (2011). The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale) for the treatment of pain: a systematic review of clinical trials. Pain Medicine, 12(12), 1808-1818. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01261.x
(9)Giugliano, D., Ceriello, A., & Esposito, K. (2006). The effects of diet on inflammation: Emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 48(4), 677-685. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2006.03.052
(10) Rosenzweig, S., Greeson, J. M., Reibel, D. K., Green, J. S., Jasser, S. A., & Beasley, D. (2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: Variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68(1), 29-36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.03.010