Ways to reduce arthritis symptoms at home

If you’ve been diagnosed with one of the many forms of arthritis, painful and movement-limiting inflammation might be a part of your everyday life.  While you should certainly always follow your doctor’s advice and instructions, there are a number of ways you can help to reduce inflammation through your diet and lifestyle.


Less junk

pizza and burger

Many studies have found that diets low or completely devoid of processed foods, including fast food and most of what we generally call junk food, tend to be better for all of us, including those with arthritis.  A healthier, well-balanced diet will provide our bodies with more nutrients that can be used to repair and rebuild damaged systems, including joints.  A healthier diet also leads to a healthier immune system, which can be key to managing the symptoms of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.


Anti-inflammatory foods


Many people are discovering the natural anti-inflammatory properties of ginger.  Making ginger tea or including fresh or ground ginger in smoothies and other meals gives many the same positive effects of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) without any of the possible negative side effects.  Pineapple is another great inflammation-fighting food.  Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that has been proven to help reduce various kinds of swelling and inflammation.  In addition to being found in pineapple, you can also find bromelain supplements at most drug stores.  Other great natural anti-inflammatories include turmeric, garlic, celery, and beets, just to name a few.



pool exercise

Even though it can be hard to exercise when your joints are swollen and achy, light exercise is one of the best ways to manage arthritis symptoms for most people.  A little exercise can help improve blood flow and minimize the joint stiffness that comes from inactivity.  Weight-bearing exercises like walking can help with lower-body symptoms, while carrying light weights (like canned vegetables) can help with the upper body.  For arthritic hands, try squeezing a stress ball or other hand exerciser off and on throughout the day.  Swimming and water aerobics are great low-impact ways to get exercise that can help muscles and joints while putting very little stress on joints.


Better rest

woman sleeping

A good night’s rest is critical for all of us, but can be especially beneficial to those who suffer from arthritis.  Sleeping well (combined with proper nutrition) gives the body time to do some repairs that can make waking up easier.  A restless night means more moving around (tossing and turning), which means that the body isn’t able to get quality down time.  A restless night also means well, less rest.  Giving our bodies some good “quiet time” helps to relieve inflammation.  Pain and stiffness can make it hard to sleep well, so you should try to find ways to relax as completely as possible before bed.  A warm bath or shower can help, as can a massage.  Consider a massage chair that you can spend a little time in each evening.  A good massage can relax muscles, which can lead to better sleep, which can lead to better mornings that start with less inflammation and stiffness.  If you can’t afford or don’t have room for a massage chair, try simple heat therapy with a heating pad.  A little heat is a great way to relax tense muscles.  You also might try a little meditation at bedtime.  This doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy–just spend a few minutes focusing on deep breathing, as this can also help to relax stressed-out or hurting bodies, allowing for a better night’s sleep.


Your diet can play a role in your chances of developing arthritis

While it’s true that there is no way to absolutely ensure that you never develop any type of arthritis, there are things you can do to lessen your risk as well as things you can do manage your symptoms if you are diagnosed with arthritis.  Arthritis is typically characterized by joint swelling, pain, and stiffness as well as a decrease in the range of motion (ROM) of affected joints.  


Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are both types of inflammatory arthritis.  With inflammatory arthritis, the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation and sometimes joint erosion.  Doctors believe that inflammatory arthritis is largely due to a combination of environmental factors and genetics.  One way to decrease your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis is to include at least one serving of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your weekly diet.  Salmon, cod, mackerel, trout, and kippers are good examples of such fish.  Eating leaner (less-omega-3-rich) fish such as cod, canned tuna, or haddock four or more times a week can provide the same benefits as just one serving of a fattier fish.  It’s been observed through various studies that individuals who followed such a diet for at least ten years were only about half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as those who did not.  Those who’ve already been diagnosed with RA or psoriatic arthritis can find significant symptom relief by adopting a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, whether through fish (the ideal) or supplements.


An overall healthy, well-balanced diet can help all individuals lessen their chances of developing arthritis as well as many other chronic diseases.  A body that gets proper nutrition (and regular exercise, of course) is more able to make repairs at the cellular level that can help to keep tissues, organs, muscles, bones, and joints in better shape.  If the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, it might have to choose, in essence, which systems get priority.  If our diets aren’t even close to healthy and well-balanced, we don’t give our bodies much choice in the matter and are likely to develop different problems across different systems.


If you have been diagnosed with arthritis or any other disease that causes painful or motion-limiting inflammation, there are some foods you can add to your diet that will help manage the inflammation.  In addition to foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, foods like pineapple, celery, beets, leafy greens, and blueberries are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, as are herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, cayenne and black pepper, and cloves.  Finding ways to include one or more of these natural anti-inflammatories in your daily diet can decrease the inflammation that comes from most types of arthritis.


A healthy diet and regular exercise can also help to stave off arthritis for some and manage symptoms for others by helping to keep our muscles, joints, and immune systems stronger.  Stronger muscles and joints are better able to withstand the ravages of time and arthritis that tends to come with age (like degenerative versions).  A stronger immune system can be key to fending off or managing RA and psoriatic arthritis.


In short, avoiding or managing various types of arthritis is one more on a long list of reasons to make the effort to eat better and move more!