Alternative Therapies Offer Arthritis Pain Relief

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Exercise

Although some people may believe having arthritis means doing exercise will cause further damage to the joints and others may find it too painful to be active, doctors stress that staying active is key to managing the symptoms of arthritis.

"Physical activity and exercise are very important, especially something like yoga that would target the joints," said Mehta. "Yoga is a type of exercise that focuses on the nuts and bolts that hold everything else together, like the tendons and ligaments, and it's designed for preventive joint health."

"Exercises like yoga and tai chi incorporate physical stretching and deep breathing," Taw added. "Gentle water therapy is a very good exercise for people with arthritis since it is easy on the joints."

Stretching helps, but as with any exercise, it should never be performed to the point where it causes pain.

Exercise can also help people lose weight, which is very effective at reducing joint inflammation, he said.

"Even if you lose as little as four pounds, the stress and pressure you put on your knee joints is lessened and you really end up feeling better."

Mindfulness

"For every person with arthritis, we recommend one nutritional or dietary change, one physical activity goal or exercise treatment and a mindfulness program of some kind," Mehta said.

Mehta explained that a benefit of mindfulness programs is that they teach people how to relax, which can be especially helpful for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

"It can take 30-plus minutes to get up out of bed in the morning because of stiffness, so there's a tendency to stay in bed and not be motivated. These programs help people get motivated and they enlist the mind to help cope with the debilitating effects," he said.

Acupuncture and Temperature Remedies

"Acupuncture has been found to be effective for osteoarthritis of the knee and hip as well as for rheumatoid arthritis, and a small study found it helps arthritis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus," Taw said.

On its web site, the American College of Rheumatology explains that studies have found acupuncture to be effective at relieving pain related to osteoarthritis, and it may be that the needle contact with the skin is what causes the decreased pain. But they go on to say that acupuncture is safe in combination with conventional treatments.

And since symptoms of different types of arthritis may be triggered by the temperature or the weather, experts may recommend heat or cold therapy.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis tend to be worse in cold weather, and the pain associated with lupus can be worse in warm weather.

"Simple things like taking warm showers and using heating pads can relieve symptoms, and if the pain is worse with warm weather, we recommend cooling measures," Taw said.

If recommended by a health care provider, arthritis specialists say these and other non-conventional therapies can offer arthritis sufferers additional ways to keep their pain and inflammation in check and live free of the disabling effects of this common disorder.

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