Joint pain can be a really annoying affliction, and it can also be a debilitating condition that interferes with a sufferer’s quality of life. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing the difference between something that can be treated at home and something requiring an office visit is more important than ever.
A massage is an excellent way to relieve joint pain in your knees and hips. Either have it done professionally, or do it at home. If you are doing it on your own, try massaging the affected area with a topical menthol rub to help ease the pain. In addition, remember when massaging your body, the direction of your strokes should always be toward the heart.
Your everyday routine can have a big impact on the health and longevity of your joints. For example, choosing foods that build bone density, strengthen connective tissue and reduce inflammation can help you prevent injuries and preserve your joints for a long, active life.
We often see patients who are curious about making lifestyle changes to reduce joint pain. Yet our orthopaedic doctors recognize that it’s hard to change everything at once. Therefore, taking a look at your diet is a great place to start.
Painful, stiff, or swollen joints can make it tough to get through the day. Research shows that some foods can dial down inflammation and help relieve joint pain. Here are eight foods that might help your aching joints.
How Can I Treat My Joint Pain Without Medication
Ways to relieve joint pain at home include:
- Ice: Apply ice to your joints to relieve pain and swelling. Ice the joint for 15 minutes several times a day.
- Heat: After a day or so, try a heating pad to address any muscle spasms around the joint.
- Rest: Rest the joint during the first day and avoid any activities that cause you pain. Keep in mind that after the initial inflammation goes away, you will need to strengthen that joint through exercise.
- Supplements: You can also look into taking supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin. “Glucosamine sulfate has been shown to reduce pain in patients suffering from arthritic joint pain. However there is not enough evidence to show that it decreases inflammation,” says Dr. Parikh. “While the uses of supplements may be effective, we need more longitudinal studies to see the real effects.” That being said, some patients report improvement after taking these supplements, and if taken properly, they pose little harm to your health.
- Losing weight: Joint pain is common in people who are overweight, so losing weight could relieve some of the pressure on your joints. Your doctor can help customize an exercise plan that’s right for you, but swimming and cycling are two ways to work out without putting too much stress on your joints.
Exercises to Help Relieve Joint Pain
The CDC suggests people with RA do low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or biking, three to five times a week, eventually working up to sessions of 30 to 60 minutes each. Just be sure to talk to your doctor about your exercise plans before you start.
For people with RA, fatigue may be a big obstacle to staying active. Research published in January 2014 in the Israel Medical Association Journal found that 40 to 80 percent of people with RA claim symptoms such as weakness, lack of energy, and tiredness as the most debilitating part of the disease. Especially when accompanied by joint pain, fatigue can be a huge deterrent to exercising regularly.
If this is happening to you, Dr. Madhoun suggests remembering that decreased activity “results in reduced muscle strength and ultimately can lead to increased arthritis pain and disability.”
It’s free, you can do it almost anywhere, no special training is needed, and it’s easy on sore joints. The Arthritis Foundation says walking can help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, resulting in less stress on your joints. In addition, walking can improve your heart health and bone health.
The cardiac benefit of exercise is especially important for people with RA, as the condition is known to increase the risk for heart disease.
For people with RA, certain joint pain triggers can make symptoms worse. But the stronger your muscles are, the less strain there is on your joints. So don’t be afraid of weights, because they’re a great way to get stronger and boost muscle mass.
A study published in April 2018 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research found that in older adults with RA, aerobic and resistance exercises combined can improve aerobic capacity, endurance, and strength.
Experiment with weight machines, free weights, and resistance bands. Start slowly and increase your intensity gradually. Aim for two or three days a week, doing eight to 10 different exercises that work different large muscle groups across your body. Do two or three sets of eight to 12 repetitions per exercise. Of course, if you feel pain, back off a little.
Yoga and Tai Chi
“When a joint and its surrounding muscles are affected by arthritis, the result is often impaired coordination, position awareness, [and] balance and an increased risk of falling, which is why people complain of their ‘knees giving out’ with activity,” Madhoun says. He explains that yoga and tai chi are examples of exercises that improve body awareness, which can increase coordination and balance, a sense of where joints are positioned (proprioception), and relaxation. Plus, they include flexibility and range-of-motion moves, which boost joint flexibility and function, according to the CDC.
Ice Therapy (Cryotherapy)
Cold temperatures reduce blood flow, and therefore reduce tissue swelling. The first time you experience pain, apply an ice pack on the affected area every hour for the majority of the day for a duration of 15 minutes. The next day, apply the ice only four or five times, still for 15 minutes. This process is vital for joint pain relief. Remember, to avoid ice burns, do not place the ice directly on the skin, and instead wrap it in a towel or washcloth.
Warm water will ease pressure on joints and muscles, so a nice warmth bath can do wonders for alleviating joint pain in your knees and hips. Immerse the affected area in the water and massage it in order to stimulate blood flow.
One of the best ways of alleviating joint pain is to get plenty of rest and relaxation. This will restore energy, as well as allow the body to repair itself naturally. Furthermore, resting in between periods of exercise will allow your body to cope with the demands being made on it, thus preventing potential joint pain.
If you are suffering from joint pain, it is absolutely vital that you schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible in order to properly assess and alleviate your joint pain.
Foods That Relieve Joint Pain
Certain types of fish are rich in oils called omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats block inflammation and help relieve the morning stiffness and joint tenderness associated with arthritis. Fish with the most omega-3 fats are salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids / Fish Oils
Cold-water fish are a terrific source of Omega-3s fatty acids, which are essential nutrients for human health. These important nutrients are also sometimes referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids. Not only are they proven to reduce inflammatory proteins in the body, but they also improve brain function and lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
Omega-3 can be found in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, trout, halibut and sardines. Taking a daily fish oil supplement is another way to absorb Omega-3s.
Cherries get their vibrant red color from anthocyanin compounds. These potent antioxidants can reduce inflammation. Some research shows that cherries protect against arthritis and help relieve arthritis symptoms.
Nuts and Seeds
There’s good news for the vegans and vegetarians among us. Omega-3s can also be found in a variety of nuts and seeds. A small daily portion of walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds or pine nuts can help reduce inflammation in the joints and connective tissue.
Do you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? People with these conditions can develop joint pain if they consume wheat, barley, or rye. To avoid aching joints, choose quinoa and other gluten-free grains such as amaranth, rice, and millet.
What are those, you might ask. Also known as cruciferous vegetables, brassicas are commonly associated with the mustard and cabbage family. Leafy greens like mustard greens, arugula, kale and purple cabbage are in the brassica family. Several other popular (and tasty!) vegetables make the list, including broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.
This particular subset of the vegetable population has been known to block an enzyme that causes swelling in the joints. Plus, they’re chocked full of fiber, vitamins and nutrients for overall health and well-being.
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil contains a substance called oleocanthal. Just like the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, oleocanthal blocks COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes that trigger inflammation. This may partly explain how a Mediterranean diet lessens the joint pain and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Fruits sometimes get a bad rap because of their high sugar content, but many are excellent antioxidants. Just like with vegetables, certain fruits are more effective than others in reducing inflammation in the body.
We’re particularly partial to blueberries, which are high in anthocyanins – one of the most powerful flavonoids. These help “turn off” inflammatory responses in the body.
Apples are another fiber-rich, anti-inflammatory fruit, and they deliver added benefits for gut health.
Pineapple is also on our short list for its bromelain content, a nutrient that has shown to reduce joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, most of the bromelain is found in the stem and core of the pineapple, so blend the core into a smoothie to get the maximum benefit.
And finally, tomatoes (yes, they’re a fruit). Tomatoes contain the powerful antioxidant, lycopene. Cooked tomatoes are even more lycopene-rich than uncooked ones. Be sure to consume the skin to get the greatest benefit.
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants called catechins. Laboratory studies show that one of these substances, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), can protect joints from the type of cartilage damage that occurs in osteoarthritis.
Garlic and Root Vegetables
Garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties. Various studies have shown that these pungent root vegetables can be useful in treating symptoms of arthritis and other joint pain. Incorporate these vegetables into meals for added flavor. Plus, they’re all available in a supplement
Sulforaphane is a strong sulfur-containing antioxidant found in broccoli and other vegetables in the cabbage family. Sulforaphane suppresses cytokines, substances that ramp up inflammation. Animal studies have shown that sulforaphane can lessen joint inflammation and decrease the severity of arthritis.
Glucosamine, chondroitin and amino acids are well documented to help maintain healthy joints, while calcium is essential for bone density. Bone broth contains all of these. The gelatin-like substance that comes from cooking bones mimics collagen that occurs naturally in our joints, tendons and ligaments. Whether or not bone broth can actually stimulate regrowth of cartilage is a fiercely debated topic in the medical filed. But taken regularly as an oral supplement, it has been known to reduce joint pain and increase function for people with arthritis.
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