The average American takes 17 ibuprofen tablets in a month. People with arthritis may take that many in a single week. To the many of the 40 million Americans with arthritis, over-the-counter painkillers often seem like the only way to hold on to a full and active lifestyle.
But there are natural, healthy, low-cost approaches to reducing painful inflammation.
Arthritis relief is hiding in our pantries, our closets, and our swimming pools. The following natural pain relief practices have fewer long-term harmful side effects than a pocket full of pills, and most of them are delicious, relaxing and even fun.
Feel the heat: Heat is perhaps the handiest way to reduce inflammation without a pill. Keeping your joints warm keeps your circulation strong, which is a great way to minimize muscle and joint inflammation. Hot showers, good insulation, and a cozy sweater go a long way toward keeping joints supple and pain-free. To combat intense pain in a large region such as the lower back, invest in a heating pad or splurge on a hot stone massage.
Add spice: If you like food with a kick, fighting arthritis can be delicious. Spicy foods, like hot temperatures, can keep your body’s circulation moving. Try capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their heat. It’s the main ingredient in at least one prescription pain relief patch, but it tastes good in chili, too. If your taste runs more toward cookies than cayenne, try ginger, which has been shown to be comparable to ibuprofen in reducing menstrual and muscle pain. Or there’s turmeric, cinnamon, and even rosemary. All of these spices are available in capsule form, but why bypass their great taste? A diet rich in spices is an enjoyable way to keep inflammation at bay.
Defy gravity: When you have arthritis, gravity is an enemy, always trying to bring you down. It accelerates the wear on joints and makes it harder to do the kinds of basic exercises that keep joints safe. Eliminating the effects of body weight on joints can give you temporary pain relief and allow you to strengthen your joints gently. So go swimming! Consider joining a gym with a pool or, better yet, a spa – your knees will love the combination of heat and weightlessness. Try aqua therapy to gain some strength in a low-impact setting. The Arthritis Foundation offers therapeutic aquatics classes through many hospitals for nominal costs. Check arthritis.org for locations near you.