Persistent joint pain isn’t a minor annoyance — it can seriously slow you down. And joint pain is more frequent and more persistent later in life.
Though there are plenty of over-the-counter solutions, NSAIDS — or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — aren’t for everyone. Side effects, which range from stomach pain to liver and kidney problems, have prompted many to seek natural alternatives.
It can, however, be overwhelming to know where to begin. How can you be sure that a natural alternative will work? We sussed out five of the most effective natural solutions for joint pain, so you don’t have to.
1. Hot and cold therapy
The right amount of hot or cold therapy at the right time could make a world of difference for your joint pain. A hot bath or shower in the morning can start your day off right by helping loosen joints. Consider using an electric blanket or heating pad throughout the day to avoid any additional stiffness.
Cold therapy is great for joint inflammation. It can be as simple as wrapping a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and applying it the pain area for about 20 minutes. Alternatively, a store-bought cold pack is perfect for quick relief at work or home. Finally, if you’re brave, you can submerge your most painful joints in an ice bath for serious relief.
Meditation can open up a world of health benefits, from reducing stress to improving focus and potentially improving your relationships. Studies have shown that mindful meditation can even help with joint pain.
You can meditate just about anywhere at any time. All you need to do is set aside some time and space. Find yourself a comfortable seat, relax your limbs, and focus on your breath. The goal is to be present. This isn’t easy for everyone, especially those who have trouble sitting in one place for long periods of time due to pain. Use this guide for a step-by-step tutorial on getting started.
Part of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture helps with a range of issues, and it’s a safe, natural alternative for anyone looking to relieve joint pain. Here’s how it works: acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles in specific points around the body. After the needles go in — which is painless for just about everyone — you just relax for 20 to 45 minutes.
The needles ease the pain by affecting neurotransmitters, hormone levels, and the immune system. Typically you begin with weekly acupuncture treatments, but a doctor or acupuncturist can develop a plan that’s right for you.
4. Fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet — even more so if you’re experiencing joint pain. In addition to aiding heart and cognitive health, fatty acids can reduce joint pain and even allow those with rheumatoid arthritis to reduce their use of NSAIDs.
To increase the omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, eat a variety of oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines), nuts and seeds, and plant oils (olive, avocado). You can also eat foods fortified with omega-3, like certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soy beverages.
As always, check with your doctor if your condition is persistent or interferes with your daily life.
To learn more about menopause and pain, read 5 Myths About Menopause and Pain.