Ease arthritis naturally: the self-help guide

If you have stiff, painful joints you can help yourself the holistic way with a number of natural remedies and therapies.


The main forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the lining around a joint becomes inflamed. This usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body, such as both hips. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage around bones wears thin and their rough edges rub together, causing pain and swelling. Young people, especially those who smoke, are more likely to experience rheumatoid arthritis with osteoarthritis more common in older people, or those who have damaged joints through injury or excessive sports. Both types are usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers, which can have side effects, but you can also ease symptoms naturally:


  • Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to increase joint mobility and flexibility in arthritis suffers. It can also help keep weight down as being overweight puts extra pressure on bones and joints. Studies have found that yoga in particular offers pain relief but don’t do a session when your joints are inflamed and inform your teacher of your condition.
  • Hydrotherapy: Water exercises a few times a week can help control the amount of pain you have. Exercising in water is non-impact, so this way there is no shock to the joints which cause pain. Also while you are in the water there is less chance to hurt yourself because you won’t fall.
  • Physical/Heat/Massage/Relaxation Therapy: Arthritis is pain in the joint area and it can strike in any part of the body where joints exist. This pain isn’t always the result of damaged joints. It can be caused by overworked tendons, a build-up of scar tissue, frayed nerves and tense muscles. These types of therapies are oftentimes effective because they generally are designed to focus on the affected area. Rubbing and kneading, applying heat, or using a walker or other type of device designed to improve mobility and posture can all help to promote improved blood circulation and loosen overly tight areas. The goal of these types of therapies is to work on the root of the pain and hopefully, after repeated treatments if necessary, make the pain disappear permanently.
  • Nutrition: Because arthritis is an inflammatory disease you need to eat foods with anti-inflammatory actions such as omega 3 fatty acids. Eat omega 3 rich oily fish or nuts and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame several times a week and up your intake of complex carbohydrates such as grains, fruits, peas and beans and dark green leafy vegetables. You should also eat plenty of red and purple berries as these are packed with antioxidants. It may also help to avoid wheat as this can lead to inflammation and aggravate symptoms. Finally, studies show that vegetarian meals may ease inflammation so cutting out meat, especially red meat, is strongly advised. 
  • Supplements: A number of nutrients may be able to ease arthritis. Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme found in pineapples can help. Ginger has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties as have omega 3 supplements. According to neurologists at the University of Pittsburgh, omega 3 supplements may work just as well as prescription drugs to ease arthritis pain. (I use Omega 3 Plus fatty acid supplement in the clinic as it is a good combination of both EPA and DHA – see the Resources Page). 


A recent study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also found that there appeared to be a clear relationship between selenium and osteoarthritis. A 2001 study of patients with knee arthritis found that an extract of ginger reduced pain while standing and after walking. By using ginger, patients were able to reduce their pain medications after 6 weeks. Glucosamine is an amino sugar found naturally in the body’s cartilage, and may help with joint repair.  


Several studies have shown that it may be moderately beneficial for the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee. Other studies suggest that it may be as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief, although the supplements needed to be taken for at least 2 weeks to have an effect. Try to get a glucosamine supplement combined with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) which occurs naturally in food and helps to maintain healthy connective tissue, keeping the joints flexible and reducing pain.  (See the Resources page for information on MSM Plus).   


Finally, vitamin C is one of the key vitamins for joints and bones but its importance is often forgotten. Vitamin C is needed for the manufacture of collagen and collagen is essential for joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Use an alkaline form of vitamin C such as magnesium ascorbate rather than the acid form, ascorbic acid, as it is thought that the more alkaline the diet, the less severe the symptoms of arthritis.  (see Vitamin C Plus, an alkaline form, on the Resources Page).


  • Herbs: A number of herbs and spices can help ease arthritis. Devil’s claw is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties as is white willow bark, although you should avoid this if you are allergic to aspirin. Turmeric strengthens connective tissues, while nettle cleans the body and prevents a build up of uric acid which can cause pain and inflammation. Apple cider vinegar is often is recommended for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.  (A good anti-inflammatory supplement combination I use is Boswellia Plus which contains a number of anti-inflammatory herbs including ginger and turmeric see the Resources Page).
  • Aromatherapy: For osteoarthritis you may want to try a warming aromatherapy blend to ease muscle spasm, stiffness and poor circulation. Try blending three drops of ginger, three of lavender and four drops of black pepper in 20 ml of carrier oil. For rheumatoid arthritis go for gentle, soothing anti inflammatory oils: Blend two drops rose otto, two yarrow and six drops palmarosa oils in 20 ml carrier oil. Do not massage on the joints if there is pain, apply gently to the surrounding tissues instead.
  • Acupressure: Both acupuncture and acupressure may be able to ease the pain and swelling of arthritis. Try these exercises: Press the fleshy part below the web between your thumb and forefinger for one minute. This may help relieve pain and can be used as a relaxant if stress triggers your arthritis. You could also locate the point in the web between your big and second toes and exert medium pressure for a minute on both feet.
  • Homeopathy: The homeopathic remedy bryonia is often recommended if you feel fine in the morning and find that your symptoms get worse as the day goes on. If you wake up stiff but find that movement eases the stiffness try rhus tox. For both cases use the 6c potency in the morning and evening for a few days and stop taking once symptoms improve.

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