Millions of people suffer from osteoarthritis pain. However there are a variety of treatments you can do at home to ease or prevent arthritis symptoms.

Home Remedies as Part of Your Treatment Plan

Osteoarthritis symptoms can vary from minor aches and stiffness, to debilitating pain and swelling. But regardless of severity, any diagnosis of arthritis should be handled through development of a comprehensive treatment plan.

As we’ve discussed before, working with a chronic pain specialist to create a customized treatment plan is often the key to effective long term control of symptoms and increased quality of life.

In general, treatment plans outline your overall treatment goals and the therapies you will try in order to reach them. You and your healthcare team can then regularly assess your progress and adjust your strategies as needed.

A thorough treatment plan will take into consideration not only medications and surgical treatments, but also non-invasive pain relief techniques, many of which you can do from the comfort of your home, whenever it is convenient for you. In many cases, these home remedies can play a significant role in soothing pain and lowering overall inflammation, without the need to travel to a healthcare facility.

While most of these treatments have very little associated risk, be sure to discuss any potential therapies with your healthcare team to make sure they’re right for you.

Short Term Remedies

There are several things you can try for immediate, short term relief of troublesome osteoarthritis symptoms. Unlike more formal medical interventions, these techniques are relatively low cost and easy to start or stop at any time.

Direct applications of either heat or cold can be very effective at controlling pain and swelling at a specific area of the body. This can be as simple as laying a bag of frozen vegetables on affected joints, though reusable gel ice packs are widely available and don’t come with the risk of melting food. Never apply the cold source directly to your skin, as this can result in ice burns. Keep at least one layer of cloth (like a shirt sleeve or towel) between you and the cold source, and do not apply cold for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

Heat can be applied through microwavable heat packs (available at most pharmacies and grocery stores). You may also consider purchasing an electric warming pad or blanket. These devices are excellent ways of providing mild to moderate heat to large areas of the body. (Be sure to follow all safety instructions and unplug them when not in use.) Another common heat treatment is soaking in a hot bath, with or without the addition of Epsom salts.

Aside from heat or cold, you can also try topical pain relief creams and gels. Available over-the-counter (or in stronger concentrations by prescription), topical creams provide relief to a specific area without the side effects or risks of oral medication.

Long Term Lifestyle Changes

For long term symptom control, changes in exercise and diet can be highly effective, particularly if you are overweight.

You should always check in with your doctor(s) before beginning a new exercise program, and this is particularly true for those with osteoarthritis. It is important that you avoid any activities that may increase damage to your joints. Generally, experts recommend that arthritis patients focus on low impact exercises like swimming, yoga, or walking. These are all easy on the joints, and can be adjusted to match patient abilities and needs.

As with exercise, diet is another topic to discuss with your doctor before making any significant changes. (You can also look for a board-certified dietary specialist for additional guidance.) One common strategy is the anti-inflammation diet, which focuses on maintaining balanced nutrition, while avoiding foods that contribute to inflammation (which can make pain worse). In addition, some supplements also seem to help lower both inflammation and pain.

Though no therapy can completely cure osteoarthritis, these home treatments can empower you to take an active role in controlling your symptoms and help you live life more comfortably.

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