Joint pain is the worst. When you’re sitting, it throbs. When you’re standing or walking, it throbs and grinds. Our joints are the reason we can move at all, but when they hurt, everything hurts. Joint pain can be caused by overuse, strains or sprains, arthritis, or plain old aging.
But no matter the cause, you need relief. Your doctor will likely prescribe a course of treatment, but if your problem is chronic rather than temporary, you may find yourself on some heavy duty medication for way longer than you’d like.
Or perhaps you’d like to explore natural ways of managing joint pain before taking on the considerable side effects that come with pharmaceuticals.
We’ve got you covered, with 7 totally natural ways to manage knee and joint pain.
7. Use the RICE method
RICE is an acronym for a series of actions that can help to both manage pain and reduce the inflammation that causes pain. It’s commonly recommended for strains and sprains, but can also help people with chronic conditions like arthritis.
RICE stands for:
When you have an episode of knee or joint pain, no matter the cause, it is important to rest the area. Avoid using the painful joint for awhile and keep the affected area elevated above your heart as much as possible. This prevents fluid from building up and causing more swelling.
A couple of times a day, apply a cold compress. This can bring down inflammation and numb pain. A compression bandage prevents the swelling from coming back, but it can be a fine line between not tight enough and too tight.
You want to experience a certain amount of compression in the area, but not so much as to cut off circulation.
6 Tai chi or yoga
Yes, we just told you to rest painful joints, but now we’re going to tell you to exercise them more. Basically, you want to baby the joint through the most intense period of inflammation and pain, but then make sure that you don’t let the entire area degenerate.
As often as you can manage, engage in a low impact exercise routine to improve flexibility and strengthen the joints themselves as well as the proximal tissues.
Tai chi and yoga are both great options because they focus on the mind-body connection. Both are about mindfulness as well as movement. Not only are these practices helpful for increasing range of motion, the meditation aspect may even help you cope with chronic pain.
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5. Weight loss
If you are already at or below your ideal weight, feel free to skip ahead. But if you know you could lose a few pounds to be healthier, your painful joints are one more reason to start now. The more weight your joints must bear, the more strain and damage they will receive.
It’s never easy to lose weight. Our dietary habits are so ingrained, and food can be a great comfort in times of pain and stress. But certain foods can also make your joint pain worse, especially if it is caused by arthritis.
Try following an arthritis-friendly diet made up of healthy whole foods that reduce inflammation – the immediate reduction in pain can make it easier to keep it up while the pounds come off gradually.
4. Herbal ointment
Pain relief creams you can buy over the counter include salicylate for pain relief.
The creams are relatively safe to use unless you have a sensitivity to salicylate (also found in various forms in treatments for warts and dandruff). However, they may be completely unnecessary in light of a discovery made by a group of researchers in Pakistan.
The study was published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences and showed that an herbal ointment made with cinnamon, ginger, Arabic gum (mastic), and sesame oil worked just as well as salicylate creams to control joint pain topically.
3. Willow bark
Willow bark is sometimes called “nature’s aspirin.” That makes sense, considering that the pain killing component is none other than salicin, which converts to salicylic acid in the body. Willow bark extract can be found in capsules, tinctures, and teas, though some people prefer to simply chew the bark.
Don’t take willow bark if you are allergic to aspirin or are taking blood thinners. Otherwise, the potential side effects are limited and mild. While a few studies have determined the efficacy of willow bark for relieving pain, further research is in the works to learn more about a remedy that has already been used for over 4,000 years!
2. Ginger extract
Ginger is a popular spice that is used in cooking, as a dietary supplement and in topical ointments (as we mentioned earlier).
Ginger is popular for relieving nausea as well as pain, and a study of arthritis sufferers found that using ginger in combination with prescription medication reduced pain further than medication alone.
The benefits are consistent whether you use it fresh or powdered, so we recommend making it a staple in your pantry. Ginger can be a lifeline when you’re experiencing any kind of pain.
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1. Heat therapy
Heat is another good natural painkiller because it relaxes muscles and helps keep joints from seizing up. Heat is often used in combination with cold therapy because the two complement each other quite well.
Cold is best used within the first 24 hours of a flare-up because it significantly reduces inflammation. Heat can then soothe residual pain and keep you as limber as possible.
You can use heat as often as you like but apply a heating pad over your clothes or a washcloth so you don’t burn your skin. You should also be conscious of how much your core body temperature goes up and stop when you start to feel too warm. For this reason, we don’t recommend using heat overnight.