10 Unique Ways to
Reduce Arthritis Pain
With the myriad of ways to claimed to relieve arthritis pain, it can be difficult to know what to include in your treatment regimen. From diet and supplements to physical activities and massage therapies, it seems like everywhere you turn has their top ten praised methods. At worst they’re something you’ve heard of and tried before and a best they’re so general that it may not even be effective. At the North Texas Pain Institute, we not only give you our top ten ways to reduce arthritis pain, but more specific practices to help you incorporate them into your routine and actually find them beneficial.
1) Joint-Repairing Proteins
Our recommendation: Methionine
Many will tout collagen as an essential protein supplement for bone health and other connective tissues of the body. However, during digestion your body breaks down collagen like any other protein into its constituent amino acids. At this point, one must “hope” their body decides to put those amino acids back together as collagen once absorbed into the body. While it may seem that having the components may promote the generation of collagen, that is not always the case, and it may be better to focus on specific amino acids that will be absorbed in their original form. Enter: Methionine.
Methionine—or more specifically S-adenosyl-L-methionine—is an essential amino acid that helps one resist the onset of arthritis and ease the pain caused by it. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, and helps play a role in the formation of cartilage, helping to stabilize joint cartilage. [2, 3] Not only does it improve mobility, but it is said to be comparable to the NSAID nabumetone.  Especially helpful for those with rheumatoid arthritis, consider supplementing with this amino acid to support your joint health.
Our recommendation: Rolfing
Feel stiff and tight? Get a massage! Well, people forget that there are many different types of massages and making the wrong choice can leave you simply feeling oiled up and exfoliated or contorted and aching in pain. While getting “rolfed” may sound like the last thing an individual suffering from arthritis may want, this form of massage seeks to insure the body is working well in relationship to gravity.  Rolfing applies “Structural Integration” which seeks to produce improvements of total human bio-mechanical function. Unlike standard massage, rolfing does not simply work to relax the patient and relieve muscle discomfort in the moment. It works to positively affect body structure long-term throughout all hours of the day.
A typical massage protocol will involve several sessions of fixing the body’s various misalignments and addressing particular pain problems that the patient may face.  If you’ve never found a typical massage to be helpful to your arthritis pain, try getting “rolfed” the next time you need some tension release.
3) Lose weight
Our recommendation: Lose excess fat.
We’ve all heard that losing weight can help our arthritis pain, as well as many other health problems. And while there is merit to aiming for a healthy BMI of 18.5 – 24.9, what many fail to mention is that it is excess fat that presents the issue, not necessarily excess weight.
Nonetheless, for many their excess weight will be excess fat, and that excess weight will cause increased stress on the joints. For every pound lost, there is a reduction of 4 pounds in the load exerted on the knee.  That means if you’re only a mere 10 pounds overweight there’s an extra 40 pounds of pressure exerted on your knees. Whether your obese or simply overweight, you’ll be less likely to be active; and actively keeping your joints mobile is good for dealing with arthritis. And while in some cases obesity only raises the risk of getting arthritis, in most cases, it definitely makes arthritis worse. In addition, the excess fat of overweight/obese individuals isn’t just stored energy. In fact, fat is a biologically active tissue that releases chemicals called cytokines.  These cytokines promote inflammation.
There are many methods to lose excess fat. But don’t fall prey to the fad diets promoted by the diet industry. At the end of the day it’s the balance of “calories in and calories out” to create a calorie deficit. Such fad diets are only beneficial if they allow for better adherence to reducing food intake and increasing activity. To encourage the loss of fat as opposed to lean body mass, a high protein intake with muscle strengthening activities will promote the retention of lean tissue during weight loss.
Our recommendation: Flat, flexible shoes
Foot health is important for anyone’s ability to move healthily in the world. Our feet connect us to the Earth, and provide our strong base. Yet foot health is especially important in reducing pain in those with arthritis. There are many types of shoes that provide comfort and pain relief, but at the North Texas Pain Institute, we recommend flat, flexible shoes. Compared with clogs or special walking shoes, flat flexible flip flops or sneakers will reduce force exerted on the knee by 11% to 15%.  While flip flops may put one at risk for falling, sneakers are a good choice to help with the pain of the knee and hip.
5) Healthy fatty acids
Our recommendation: Gamma-linolenic acid
It’s well known that of the omega fatty acid families, omega-3s (such as fish oils) support joint health while surplus omega-6s—though healthy in moderation—can increase inflammation. However, one omega-6 fatty acid in particular can actually reduce inflammation and ameliorate the pain of arthritis.
This omega-6 fatty acid is Gamma-Linolenic Acid, and it’s found in evening primrose oil, black currant oil, and borage oil. In the body, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is converted into anti-inflammatory chemicals.  GLA is not a topical supplement and must be taken orally.  But that may benefit those looking to get the health effects of fish oil as well, as a combination of fish and GLA is reported to be best. 
Our recommendation: Strength training
Though initially counterintuitive to move the area in pain, exercise is actually one of the best treatments for arthritis, not to mention: overall health in general. Exercise can increase strength and flexibility, thus reducing the pain experienced. Additionally, it can combat the fatigue that presents from chronic pain. Exercise can help with one’s weight control, and as discussed earlier, weight control is vital to managing arthritis pain. And while all exercise is good, not simply any exercise will suffice in the treatment of arthritis. Some exercises are better than others, while a few can actually be to your detriment.
Strength training offers many unique benefits that are not always present with typical modes of aerobic exercise. It strengthens the muscles around the joints and helps one to increase—or at least maintain—bone mineral density.  Regular aerobic exercise often does not provide the weight-bearing stimulus present in strength training to allow such a benefit to bone health.
The wrong mode of exercise can actually cause a flare-up of arthritis. Make sure to keep impact low. This can still be accomplished with strength training with slow and controlled movements and limited plyometric-based lifts. And while working with maximal weight may cause irritation to joints, intensity must still be high enough. The point is to “lift heavy”.
People of any age can benefit from strength training. Next time you visit your gym, skip the lines of treadmills and head over to the weights to pump some iron.
7) Avoid Dairy
Our recommendation: Avoid high-fat dairy
It is often claimed that consuming dairy can increase inflammation, thereby exacerbating ailing joints, but that is not the case. Dairy only presents a problem in those allergic to specific nutrients found within such as casein or lactose.  In fact, milk has anti-inflammatory effects for those that are not allergic.  Dairy provides one with calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Just those three nutrients themselves are important to bone health, joint health, and muscle retention—all keys to the management of arthritis.
However, excessive intake of saturated fats found in dairy are associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. While cardiovascular disease can limit ones health in its own right, excessive weight (fat) gain leads to worsening arthritis in the many ways discussed earlier. The solution is low-fat dairy and it provides the best of both worlds. It retains the bone- and muscle-supporting nutrients while removing the cardiovascular-impairing ones.
There’s no need to skip the dairy aisle, just skip the butter and high-fat cheeses and grab the skim milk and nonfat yogurt.
Our recommendation: Mindful-based stress reduction (MBSR)
Meditation is a mind-body practice with many different types. Many experts claim that the practice of meditation can work to alleviate chronic pain and the studies support.  Nevertheless, if you’re suffering arthritis pain, you must use the type best suited for the thoughts associated with the pain as focusing on the negativity of pain worsens it. 
At the North Texas Pain Institute, we recommend Mindful-based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. It focuses on being fully present in the moment and works to quiet the thoughts of judgment surrounding arthritis pain.  This not only lessens the perceived pain of arthritis, but the depression that often accompanies it.
9) Vegetables, micronutrients, and phytonutrients
Our recommendation: Broccoli
There’s so much variety for vegetable intake when it comes to obtaining all of one’s necessary nutrients. Intake of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli are associated with decreased inflammatory markers.  Besides the bone-building calcium present in broccoli, it contains an important compound known as sulforaphane.  This sulforaphane blocks the formation of a type of cell involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis and may slow down the destruction of cartilage in joints. [20, 22]
Many vegetables support good health and it’s best to keep your intake varied. But due to its benefits, you might want to add another serving of broccoli to your next meal.
Our recommendation: Helichrysum
Aromatherapy is a natural way to treat many ailments using essential plant oils. When treating arthritis one should not just use any scent which smells nice upon first whiff. We recommend Helichrysum. This essential oil has anti-inflammatory effects and many of its users report pain relief happening near instantly. [23, 24] Its components exhibit many effects to the body. Besides reducing inflammation, helichrysum removes toxins, prevents bruising and blood clots, relaxes tight muscles and connective tissue, and stimulates cellular repair.  And if the smell doesn’t flatter you, don’t worry. A combination of different oils in the same bout of aromatherapy has been shown to be helpful too.
These are the North Texas Pain Institute’s ten unique ways to reduce arthritis pain. You mustn’t need incorporate all of these into your daily routine at once. Just try giving them a go one at a time the next time your pain is limiting you in your everyday life.