Anti-inflammatory drugs—prescription and over-the-counter—can ease your arthritis pain, and most people will want to take them. But relief doesn’t end there. A host of other feel-good, stay-well measures can move you further down the field toward your goal of easy-moving, pain-free days.
• Supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin to reduce pain and slow cartilage loss. There’s evidence that this combination can be effective for people with mild to moderate arthritis. Follow the dosage directions on the label. And keep at it: You might have to use it for a month or more before you begin to see benefits.
• Take a half-teaspoon of powdered ginger or up to 30 grams (about 6 teaspoons) of fresh ginger once a day. Research shows that ginger helps relieve rthritis pain, probably because of its ability to increase blood circulation, which ferries inflammatory chemicals away from painful joints.
• Take two 400-milligram doses of SAM-e every day. SAM-e has been shown to help relieve arthritis pain by increasing blood levels of proteoglycans—molecules that seem to play a key role in preserving cartilage by helping to keep it “plumped up” and well oxygenated. In a review of SAM-e studies sponsored by the U.S. government, the supplement proved comparable to anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) in fighting arthritis pain.
Apply heat and cold to arthritis pain
• Applying heat to a painful joint can provide significant relief. For heat sources, you can use electric blankets and mitts, heating pads, or hot packs. Heat things up for 20 minutes. Simply taking a hot bath or shower can also be soothing.
• Cold treatments may work equally well when joints are inflamed. Wrap an ice cube in a towel or washcloth, and press it to the sore joint. Alternatively, you can use a bag of frozen peas or corn.
Wear gloves to bed
• If you frequently have stiff, swollen hands in the morning, wear a snug-fitting pair of gloves to bed. They’ll keep the swelling in check.
Oil aching joints
• Eat more cold-water fish. Many people who supplement their diets with omega-3 fatty acids—found in cold-water fish like salmon—discover that pain and stiffness are lessened. These substances seem to discourage inflammation in the body.
• If you dislike fish, get the healing oils in capsule form. The recommended dose is 2,000 milligrams of an omega-3 supplement three times daily. If you take blood-thinning drugs, check with your doctor before taking fish-oil capsules.
• As an alternative to fish-oil capsules, take one tablespoon of flaxseed oil a day. It’s loaded with the same type of omega-3’s. Take the oil straight, or add it to your salad dressing.
• If you like nuts, indulge in them a bit. They also contain beneficial oil.
Rub on relief
• Capsaicin is a substance that gives hot peppers their “heat.” Rub on a store-bought capsaicin cream and let it go to work. It irritates nerve endings, diverting your brain’s attention from arthritis pain.
• Oil of wintergreen and eucalyptus oil are also effective. Put a few drops on the skin and rub it in. Be cautious with wintergreen, however, since some people develop a skin reaction. Also, don’t use either of these oils under a heating pad or hot compress, as the additional heat can cause them to burn or irritate the skin.