While there is no cure for arthritis, many natural remedies can help relieve arthritis symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Arthritis is the term used for conditions that cause pain in the joints.

More than 100 types of arthritis affect an estimated 54.4 million adults in the United States.

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a degenerative condition in which cartilage in a joint wears away and the bones of the joint start to change. Pain, stiffness, and swelling (if there is soft tissue) are common with OA and can result in decreased functionality in joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease that causes arthritis due to the immune system attacking healthy tissue.

RA usually occurs in several joints at once, often on both sides of the body, such as in both hands. During an RA attack, known as a flare-up, the joint becomes inflamed, leading to tissue damage.

Medications can provide relief from the pain of arthritis. However, some people prefer a more natural approach they can try at home.

This article lists 12 effective, natural remedies for arthritis symptoms as well as their benefits.

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Massage can lessen the pain of arthritis. Research has found that massage lowers cortisol levels, increases the mood-lifting hormone serotonin, and lowers blood pressure.

One study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 1-hour whole-body massage lessened pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis. A group of 222 participants were prescribed Swedish massage, light touch, or their standard care for 8 weeks. Standard care consisted of the participant’s regular care routine for osteoarthritis.

Eight weeks of Swedish massage showed significant improvement in symptoms. Pain and stiffness lessened, alongside an improvement in joint function.

Yoga loosens the joints to improve flexibility and improve range of motion. It also releases hormones that bring on a feeling of general well-being. Someone who has arthritis should keep the following things in mind while doing yoga:

  • Begin with a gentle yoga or flow class that allows participants to move through poses in short amounts of time. This loosens the joints without applying unnecessary pressure.
  • A person should speak to the instructor beforehand, if possible, to let them know they have arthritis and may need to move through a pose more quickly.
  • Try to practice yoga later in the day, after joints have had a chance to loosen up. People with RA should speak to their healthcare professional about whether to practice yoga during a flare-up.

Voltaren gel and capsaicin creams are examples of topical treatments that are available from pharmacies. Capsaicin works on nerve endings by decreasing substance P and downgrading pain signals. Voltaren is a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or anti-inflammatory pain reliever.

The body reacts to this by lowering pain signals overall, similar to the workings of an oral, over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever like ibuprofen.

These treatments are particularly useful for people who cannot take OTC treatments due to stomach pain or heart risk factors.

Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) works through a device that uses small electrode pads to send an electrical signal that reduces the body’s pain response. The theory is that it may also trigger natural pain-relieving hormones in the brain.

A Cochrane review evaluated 19 clinical trials that included 1,346 participants. TENS treatments reduced the intensity of pain, but results were inconsistent across trials.

Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). During a treatment session, an acupuncture practitioner will insert very thin stainless-steel needles into specific points on the body to help relieve a range of symptoms.

TCM focuses on life energy or “qi” (pronounced “chee”) that circulates in the body through paths known as meridians. Pain occurs when the flow of qi becomes interrupted or blocked. An acupuncturist is able to free up meridians to restore proper flow and relieve symptoms.

While some research shows that acupuncture can improve arthritis symptoms, researchers do not yet fully understand how it works.

A review of 43 studies found that when applied to rheumatoid arthritis, acupuncture provided relief without any adverse effects.

Movement is an effective strategy for dealing with pain from arthritis. Tai chi is the practice of fluid and gentle movements, and offers different styles for people at all fitness levels.

The Sun style is usually preferred for people with arthritis as it uses a standing position with less bending at the knees. It consists of mobility-focused exercises and relaxation.

A 2016 study found that people who participated in tai chi had less depression symptoms and improved quality of life compared with those who participated in a stretching and education program.

Swimming provides gentle resistance while still being easy on the joints due to the decreased effect of gravity on the body’s movements.

The pain of arthritis makes some people avoid moving affected joints. Over time, however, inactivity has a negative impact on the joints. This can lead to muscular atrophy and ligaments losing range of motion.

Exercising in water is a gentle way to move the impacted joint and maintain muscle strength. One review of six articles from between 2010 and 2015 suggested that aquatic exercises focusing on strength, endurance, balance, and stretching produced a significant decrease in pain among older adults.

Participants in one of the trials also experienced lower rates of depression, improved range of motion, decreased body fat, and improved overall quality of life.

For someone with chronic pain, soothing heat therapy can be one of the best natural remedies for arthritis. A hot compress or warm shower can loosen stiff tissue and help lessen the pain of sore muscles.

Heat therapy works by expanding blood vessels, which increases the amount of blood and oxygen that flows to an injured region. More blood flow results in a looser, less painful joint.

A person can try a warm, steamy shower, a warm bath, or using a heating pad. About 20 minutes of therapy should suffice for most people.

Mindfulness meditation involves training the mind to pay non-judgmental attention to thoughts, emotions, and feelings in the body. This may reduce the pain that results from chronic symptoms.

One study found that participants who underwent mindfulness meditation training reported a reduction in symptoms of RA. Researchers tracked them for a period after the study and results up to 6 months later reported the same benefits.

The goal of physical therapy is to improve flexibility, range of motion, strength, and the ability to use a joint impacted by injury.

A physical therapist will design an exercise program to help rebuild strength, improve coordination, and teach correct posture and motion to lessen pain.

A systematic review of studies published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science examined the impact of physical therapy on patients with RA. The results suggested that compared to standard rheumatology care, physical therapy resulted in greater pain relief for more participants.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the more than 54 million adults in the U.S. with arthritis, 39 million have excess weight or obesity.

The Arthritis Foundation reports that the pressure on joints is about one-and-a-half times a person’s body weight with every step on a flat surface. In people with arthritis, that increases to about four times an individual’s body weight.

A 5 pound (lb) reduction in body weight can reduce the stress on a person’s joints by about 20 lb. This could result in significant pain reduction and help to preserve remaining joint cartilage.

Excess body fat releases cytokines, which are proteins that can cause inflammation throughout the body. This can make painful arthritis worse, so a person’s doctor may advise a weight management program.

Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acid. They are available in fish oil supplements and also in vegetarian forms. When someone takes omega-3s the body converts them into an anti-inflammatory.

Omega-3s have numerous proven benefits and may have a beneficial effect in treating RA.

One clinical review found that several studies of patients with RA suggest that supplementation with omega-3s results in significant decreases in joint pain when compared with control groups.

Several global studies showed that omega-3s given in varying amounts resulted in reduced pain and eliminated the need to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

While there is no cure for arthritis, many natural remedies can help alleviate pain, swelling, and stiffness. A person can try some of these at home for little or no cost.

If arthritis does not respond to natural treatments, a person should speak to their doctor.

A doctor may be able to prescribe other treatments that can provide relief.