When you know how to improve joint health, you can get back to doing the things you love.
When it comes to arthritis remedies, we've come a long way since the gin-soaked raisins that were prescribed in the Middle Ages. Today's over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) offer effective, affordable pain relief for many types of arthritis.
However, a well-rounded treatment plan should focus on how to improve joint health, not just relieving the pain. A number of products and assistive devices are available to help you prevent and manage pain while going about your daily tasks.
Read on to learn how to improve joint health and ease discomfort, wherever you are in your house.
In Your Bedroom:
- Give your joints a rest at night. Special braces made specifically for nighttime use fit comfortably and offer gentle rest and support while you sleep.
- Turn down the volume on pain signals from your brain with capsaicin cream. Capsaicin is the natural ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. Applying it to your skin may increase discomfort on first use, but continued application should start to reduce your arthritis pain. Be sure to read the product label for exact dosing instructions and wash your hands well after use. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend giving capsaicin cream up to a week to take effect .
- Pile up the good pillows. A cervical pillow can help hold your neck in a natural, spine-aligned position to help prevent the pain that can result from sleeping with your head at an awkward angle. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, it may also help to elevate your arms or legs with an extra pillow while sleeping.
- Turn up the heat. Soothe painful areas by applying heat. Use a large heating pad for about 20 minutes for relief at bedtime.
In the Kitchen:
- Use electric kitchen devices as often as possible. Rather than wrestling with manual can openers and whisks, give your hands and wrists a break by going electric. Some devices do more than one job, such as can openers that double as knife sharpeners.
- Get a grip. Utensils with built-in ergonomic, contoured grips can be more comfortable to grasp and put less stress on your finger joints, while providing excellent stability.
- Grab a reaching tool. When you need to access out-of-reach items, these devices make it easy.
In Your Living Room:
- Alternate between hot and cold treatments to relieve arthritis pain. Heating pads can help soothe aching joints by increasing blood flow. Cold packs can help reduce inflammation. Both are convenient and easy to use while enjoying your favorite TV show.
- Explore transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). According to the NIH, TENS devices can dull your body's pain signals by sending electrical pulses to nearby nerve endings. The small, portable unit is easy to operate and can be used to lessen arthritis pain. TENS is not appropriate for everyone, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before using. Try it in your reading chair.
- Trust old standbys. Menthol-based pain relief products remain among the best options. Today's Icy Hot products, including a no-mess roll-on liquid, are easy to use.
- Squeeze pain away. Use your downtime to work with an iso ball. These devices can be warmed up for gentle squeezing sessions to increase hand strength. Or, try freezing your iso ball and holding it to relieve acute pain.
In the Bathroom:
- Run a warm bath. According to the Arthritis Foundation, baths can help arthritis in a number of ways. "Floating" takes the pressure of gravity off your joints, while warm water boosts your circulation and helps to reduce swelling. Try occasionally adding Epsom salts to your bath for extra relief. In warm water, Epsom salts break down into magnesium, a mineral that supports bone health.
- Use no-slip-grip hygiene tools to make daily self-care tasks easier. Try easy-grip nail clippers or tweezers.
In Your Car:
- Heat your seat. Carry portable heating pads for quick relief when you're on the go.
- Get relief from gel sleeves. These products can be heated or cooled before you get behind the wheel, then slipped on to make your commute more comfortable.
- Swivel without straining. Driving often involves a lot of twisting and turning. A swivel seat cushion can help ease everyday driving actions such as sitting, fastening a seat belt, and turning to check your blind spot.
Once you find what works for you, stock up on your go-tos and keep them within reach. Ask your Rite Aid Pharmacist for other ideas about how to improve joint health and for help finding the best options in your local store.
By Nancy Burtis Boudreau
MedlinePlus, Arthritis Overview
American Occupational Therapy Association, Tips for Living With Arthritis
National Institutes of Health, Osteoarthritis
Arthritis Foundation, Self-Help Arthritis Devices
Arthritis Foundation, Fast and Easy Joint Pain Relief
Arthritis Foundation, The Right Pillow for Neck Pain
Arthritis Foundation, Warm Water Works Wonders on Pain
Healthline, Joint Pain Remedies From Around the World
Arthritis Foundation, Ways to Prevent Hand and Wrist Pain and Get Around