Arthritis remedies: Which ones might work and which are a waste of time... (2022)

Arthritis Research UK rates the most popular alternative remedies used by the millions of people living with the condition

Arthritis remedies: Which ones might work and which are a waste of time... (1)

Swollen joints? Knees stiff when you stand? Back still hurt after lifting something heavy? You’re not alone.

Arthritis affects a whopping one in six people in the UK, causing pain and disability for 10 million.

In osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis in the UK – the cartilage (connective tissue) between the bones gradually wastes away, leading to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints.

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The most frequently affected joints are in the hands, spine, knees and hips. Although more common in those over 50, it can develop at any age as a result of an injury or another joint-related condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis is more severe, but less common. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the affected joints, causing pain and swelling to occur. This can lead to a reduction in movement and the breakdown of bone and cartilage.

It typically starts between the ages of 40 and 50 years old and women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

“It makes everyday things many of us take for granted, like walking, moving, lifting or standing, difficult,” says Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK.

So, it’s not surprising those with the condition are willing to try anything that might help.

According to a report by the charity, of the £450m spent on complementary therapies, use is higher among people with pain or musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis.

And 60% of people with chronic conditions will try a variety of products.

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“Prescribed medications and painkillers aside, 60% of those with chronic long-term conditions, like arthritis, will try a variety of complementary and alternative products to ease their symptoms,” he adds.

“The potential that a natural therapy can offer over conventional treatment is attractive.

“But, we advise people to make sure that they have done their research because natural does not mean safe – or effective – and their use could interfere with conventional medicine.”

To mark National Arthritis Week, we asked Arthritis Research UK for their verdict on the most commonly used remedies.

Fish Oil

  • What is it? Fish oil may be fish body oil – made from the tissues of fatty fish, such as sardines, sprat, salmon and mackerel – or fish liver oil, which is made by pressing the cooked liver of halibut, shark or, most commonly, cod.
  • How might it work? Fish oils are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are a strong anti-inflammatory, calming joint inflammation. Fish liver oil contains high levels of vitamins A, a strong antioxidant, and vitamin D, which plays an important part in helping to maintain a healthy musculoskeletal system. Omega-3 fatty acids can help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke in people with inflammatory arthritis.
  • Verdict: Thumbs up

Arthritis Research UK gives fish body oil a high rating for the treatment of arthritis (findings aren’t as conclusive for fish liver oil). Evidence suggests that supplements are safe and reduce joint pain, the duration of morning stiffness, fatigue time, the number of tender or swollen joints and the use of painkillers. Fish oils can also help regulate the body’s immune system and fight joint inflammation. They’re inexpensive and easy to find on the high street.

Glucosamine

  • What is it? Glucosamine is an amino sugar made from shellfish or prepared in the laboratory and is widely available in pharmacies, health food shops and supermarkets.
  • How might it work? Found naturally in the body, glucosamine plays an important role in making essential building blocks of the joints, including the ligaments, tendons and cartilage. It’s been suggested that the way joint structures are built and maintained contributes to the development and the progression of osteoarthritis. Animal studies have found that giving glucosamine can delay the breakdown of cartilage tissue as well as rebuild it.
  • Verdict: Thumbs down

Trial results were mixed. Professor Alan Silman says: “There is little evidence to suggest that glucosamine is effective in relieving pain. Although it is relatively safe to use, we found little clinical evidence to suggest that it is an effective treatment to reverse arthritis and bring long-term benefit.”

Copper Bracelets

  • What are they? Copper bracelets (and sometimes rings and anklets) look, and are worn, like normal jewellery. They can be bought on the high street and are commonly worn round the wrist with the intention of reducing the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism.
  • How might they work? Copper is essential for human health as it forms a component of a number of proteins that speed up chemical reactions in body. It’s important in the maintenance and repair
    of skin and blood vessels and is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. It’s claimed that wearing copper bracelets lets the copper from the bracelet seep in through skin, directly targeting the area where there is pain.
  • Verdict: Thumbs down

Although popular, they received a low rating from Arthritis Research UK. They are considered safe to wear but scientific evidence suggests they aren’t effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis and there is no evidence that they help rheumatoid arthritis.

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Flaxseed oil

  • What is it? The flax or linseed plant is found in Europe and the US. Oil from the seeds is used to treat several diseases.
  • How might it work? Flaxseed oil contains
    alpha-linolenic acid, ALA, an omega-3 essential fatty acid, and chemicals called lignans, which have antioxidant properties. It can be bought over the counter in liquid or capsule form.
  • Verdict: Thumbs down

Although flaxseed oil has many health benefits, according to Arthritis Research UK, there’s no scientifically proved benefit for the treatment of arthritis despite the omega 3. Without further studies, it’s not known how safe it is to use and how it can help.

Capsaicin (Chilli)

  • What is it? Capsaicin is the active ingredient extracted from chillies.
  • How might it work? Several studies have shown how capsaicin can reduce pain. It mainly works by reducing ‘Substance P’ – a pain transmitter between the nerves and the brain, which can cause inflammation and tenderness in joints.
  • Verdict: Thumbs up

Capsaicin rated highly as a treatment because it’s all-natural, safe to use and is readily available on prescription in the form of gel, cream and plasters. Most trials have used 0.025% or 0.075% capsaicin gel applied to the skin four times a day.

Yoga

  • What is it? Yoga combines breathing exercises, physical postures and meditation to harmonise the mind and body. It’s one of the most popular complementary and alternative therapies in the UK and can be self-taught or learned with supervision. Maximum benefits are thought to be achieved through daily practice.
  • How might it work? Yoga works on the basis that ill health is caused by the blockage of the flow of vital energy, prana, due to poor diet, stress and environmental factors. Although there is
    little science to support this, regular practice may bring physical (muscular strength) and mental benefits (wellbeing and relaxation) while the breathing exercises may reduce muscular spasms.
  • Verdict: Thumbs up

A study, led by York University and funded by Arthritis Research UK, found that yoga can provide an effective treatment for chronic back pain. Those offered a 12-week yoga programme had greater improvements in back function and more confidence in performing everyday tasks than those under GP care. The trial’s yoga experts have set up yogaforbacks.co.uk about their research-proven back-care courses and resources with a list of qualified teachers.

Yoga works for me!

Abigayle Myers-Drake, 39, from Woodbridge, Suffolk, finds yoga really helps her manage her arthritis symptoms.

“I first started experiencing joint pain in 2005, aged 31. “The symptoms were agonising: pain, stiffness and weakness in my back and legs.
It took a long time to get a definite diagnosis but, following an operation on my spine in 2008, I was eventually told I had osteoarthritis in my spine.

“Although I had been doing yoga for years (I’ve been a fitness instructor for 18 years), I started using yoga specifically to help manage pain in my joints.

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“I noticed the difference in my core strength and posture straight away but, over time, yoga has significantly improved my mobility and strengthened all my muscle groups and helped with joint alignment. The stretching exercises also help release muscle tension.

“I notice a big difference in pain when I don’t exercise, so I practice daily. The exercises enable me to stay strong and perform everyday tasks more easily.”

ARTHRITIS: The dos and don’ts

DO:

  • Lose weight if you need to: The knees and hips are commonly affected by joint pain. Carrying excess weight around makes them particularly vulnerable to it.

  • Remain active, but listen to your body: If you experience a lot of stiffness in the morning, take gentle exercise in the evening. When watching television or sitting for long periods, change position frequently and bend and stretch the joints. Try taking up a low-impact exercise, such as swimming.

DON’T:

  • Self-diagnose and medicate: Visit your GP for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
  • Assume that nothing can be done to help your joint pain: As well as discussing painkiller options with your GP, heat and ice can be helpful
    in managing pain and stiffness. Check out the
    self-management tips at www.arthritiscare.org.uk and www.arthritisresearchuk.org
  • Smoke: The toxins in tobacco cause stress on connective tissue, leading to more joint problems.

Read more

How to boost your health

FAQs

What are 5 treatments for arthritis? ›

Treatment of arthritis could include rest, occupational or physical therapy, hot or cold compresses, joint protection, exercise, drugs, and sometimes surgery to correct joint damage.

What is the safest treatment for arthritis? ›

NSAIDs. NSAIDs are considered one of the most effective OTC drugs for pain stemming from osteoarthritis, which causes inflammation. These drugs reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling from arthritis. A common examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

What drinks are good for arthritis? ›

Best Drinks for Arthritis
  • Tea. Tea is one of the most-studied drinks when it comes to its benefits for arthritis patients. ...
  • Coffee. Research shows coffee also has antioxidant polyphenols. ...
  • Milk. ...
  • Juices. ...
  • Smoothies. ...
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Water.

What is the new treatment for arthritis? ›

Otilimab. This investigational therapy is under evaluation in late-stage clinical trials and shows promise for reducing inflammation and relieving pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. It works by suppressing an inflammatory protein called GM-CSF.

What triggers arthritis? ›

The most common triggers of an OA flare are overdoing an activity or trauma to the joint. Other triggers can include bone spurs, stress, repetitive motions, cold weather, a change in barometric pressure, an infection or weight gain. Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory disease that affects the skin and joints.

What is the most painful type of arthritis? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis can be one of the most painful types of arthritis; it affects joints as well as other surrounding tissues, including organs. This inflammatory, autoimmune disease attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling in the joints, like hands, wrists and knees.

Is heat or cold better for arthritis? ›

Both heat and cold therapy may help ease symptoms of arthritis. Heat may help relieve aches and stiffness, while cold therapy may help ease swelling and pain. Applying heat or cold to affected parts of the body may help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of arthritis.

What foods inflame arthritis? ›

Red meat, such as burgers and steaks. Processed meats like hot dogs, brats and other sausages. Refined carbohydrates like the ones you find in breads and pastries. Dairy products, because for many people, casein, a protein common in milk, ice cream and cheese, has been shown to irritate the tissue around joints.

What vitamin helps arthritis in fingers? ›

Vitamin D

If you have arthritis pain or are at high risk for arthritis, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement. (I prefer vitamin D3.) A blood test can determine whether you have a vitamin D deficiency.

How do you stop arthritis from progressing? ›

Slowing Osteoarthritis Progression
  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. ...
  2. Control Blood Sugar. ...
  3. Get Physical. ...
  4. Protect Joints. ...
  5. Choose a Healthy Lifestyle.

What is the number one over the counter medicine for arthritis? ›

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help relieve occasional pain triggered by activity your muscles and joints aren't used to — such as gardening after a winter indoors.

What is the fastest way to reduce joint inflammation? ›

If you think your joint inflammation is due to a sudden injury, the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) method is the first line of treatment to reduce pain and swelling. See an orthopedist if the pain and swelling don't diminish after RICE treatment.

Is CBD oil good for arthritis? ›

One innovation in pain management is the use of cannabidiol, or CBD. While there is no cure for arthritis pain, early studies have shown that CBD can potentially aid in some of the discomfort, anxiety and inflammation associated with the condition.

What drinks make arthritis worse? ›

A study in 217 people with rheumatoid arthritis noted that among 20 foods, sugar-sweetened soda and desserts were the most frequently reported to worsen RA symptoms ( 2 ). What's more, sugary beverages like soda may significantly increase your risk of arthritis.

Which fruit is good for arthritis? ›

Berries pack a double dose of anti-inflammatory properties. All fruits are high in antioxidants, which can help fight inflammation. Additionally, foods like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation.

Is banana good for arthritis? ›

Bananas and Plantains are high in magnesium and potassium that can increase bone density. Magnesium may also alleviate arthritis symptoms.

Is there a shot for arthritis pain? ›

Steroid Shots for Arthritis

Medicine called corticosteroids can be injected into the joint to help with swelling and pain. Relief can last for months. More than 2 or 3 shots a year may be harmful. These shots are usually done at your doctor's office.

Does cold rainy weather affect arthritis? ›

During times of rain and snow, the temperature drops and barometric pressure decreases. This can cause fluid in the joints to thicken, which makes them stiffer. If you have stiff joints, you may be more sensitive to pain during movement, making arthritis pain seem worse.

Is it good to massage arthritic joints? ›

Any type of full-body massage therapy that involves moderate pressure, including self-massage, should help relieve arthritis pain and ease tension, she says. Before getting any type of massage, consult your doctor to make sure massage is safe for your arthritis and any other health conditions you may have.

Does arthritis make you tired? ›

Many people with arthritis say fatigue is one of their biggest challenges. Fatigue can be linked to many types of arthritis and related conditions. It's commonly a symptom of autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis and lupus.

Is arthritis a disability? ›

Arthritis affects a person's overall function and mobility, which can result in activity and other limitations. It is a leading cause of work disability among US adults.

Is there a blood test for arthritis? ›

No blood test can definitively prove or rule out a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, but several tests can show indications of the condition. Some of the main blood tests used include: erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – which can help assess levels of inflammation in the body.

Why does arthritis hurt more at night? ›

Lying down can cause inflammatory chemicals to pool in the fluid that cushions your joints, which makes them stiffen up. And your perception of pain may be heightened during the nighttime because you're not distracted by anything else.

Is arthritis worse at night or morning? ›

Like joint pain, the stiffness is often worse in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Morning stiffness that is a symptom of another type of arthritis, called osteoarthritis, usually wears off within 30 minutes of getting up, but morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis often lasts longer than this.

What are 5 symptoms of arthritis? ›

What are the symptoms of arthritis?
  • Pain.
  • Redness.
  • Stiffness.
  • Swelling.
  • Tenderness.
  • Warmth.
15 Apr 2021

Does drinking water help arthritis? ›

Staying hydrated is vital when you live with arthritis. Hydration is key for flushing toxins out of your body, which can help fight inflammation, and well-hydrated cartilage reduces the rate of friction between bones, meaning you can move more easily.

Does sugar make arthritis worse? ›

Eating excess sugar causes the body to produce more cytokines, which are inflammatory proteins. People with arthritis already have high levels of cytokines, so increasing inflammation can make them feel worse.

Is ice good for arthritis? ›

Does Cold Therapy Help Arthritis Pain? Yes. Cold packs numb the sore area and reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice packs are especially good for joint pain caused by an arthritis flare.

What is the number one medication for arthritis? ›

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

NSAIDs are the most effective oral medicines for OA. They include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) naproxen (Aleve) and diclofenac (Voltaren, others). All work by blocking enzymes that cause pain and swelling.

What is the most painful type of arthritis? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis can be one of the most painful types of arthritis; it affects joints as well as other surrounding tissues, including organs. This inflammatory, autoimmune disease attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling in the joints, like hands, wrists and knees.

How do you stop arthritis from progressing? ›

Slowing Osteoarthritis Progression
  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. ...
  2. Control Blood Sugar. ...
  3. Get Physical. ...
  4. Protect Joints. ...
  5. Choose a Healthy Lifestyle.

What is the fastest way to reduce joint inflammation? ›

If you think your joint inflammation is due to a sudden injury, the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) method is the first line of treatment to reduce pain and swelling. See an orthopedist if the pain and swelling don't diminish after RICE treatment.

Which blood test is done for arthritis? ›

erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – which can help assess levels of inflammation in the body. C-reactive protein (CRP) – another test that can help measure inflammation levels.

Which is better for arthritis heat or cold? ›

Both heat and cold therapy may help ease symptoms of arthritis. Heat may help relieve aches and stiffness, while cold therapy may help ease swelling and pain. Applying heat or cold to affected parts of the body may help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of arthritis.

Is arthritis a disability? ›

Arthritis affects a person's overall function and mobility, which can result in activity and other limitations. It is a leading cause of work disability among US adults.

Why do people get arthritis? ›

Arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows a joint injury. For example, you might have badly injured your knee when young and develop arthritis in your knee joint years later.

What triggers arthritis? ›

The most common triggers of an OA flare are overdoing an activity or trauma to the joint. Other triggers can include bone spurs, stress, repetitive motions, cold weather, a change in barometric pressure, an infection or weight gain. Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory disease that affects the skin and joints.

What triggers arthritis attacks? ›

Scientifically proven flare triggers still do not exist, but there are certain activities that have often triggered flare ups. They include falling on or injuring a joint, repetitive motions and overuse. Other causes include infection, stress, weather and obesity or being overweight.

Does sugar affect arthritis? ›

Consuming too much processed sugar causes the body to release pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines, says Bruning. Cytokine levels are already high when you have inflammatory arthritis; that chronic inflammation is what causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in your joints.

Can arthritis make you tired? ›

Many people with arthritis say fatigue is one of their biggest challenges. Fatigue can be linked to many types of arthritis and related conditions. It's commonly a symptom of autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis and lupus.

Can arthritis affect your eyes? ›

More rarely, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in the white part (sclera) of your eyes, which can result in redness and pain. If you have rheumatoid arthritis and experience eye pain, vision changes or other eye problems, consult an ophthalmologist for an evaluation.

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