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When Drugs Are Dangerous, Natural Remedies Ease Arthritis Pain

If you have ever wondered what to do to ease arthritis pain besides taking a pill, it's possible that a home remedy might just do the trick.

People with arthritis often face a terrible dilemma because the medications that are most commonly used to ease stiffness and discomfort in the joints can have nasty side effects. NSAIDs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen can all raise blood pressure, increase the possibility of a heart attack or stroke and irritate the digestive tract. What else can be done to ease arthritis pain?

Taking Curcumin to Ease Joint Pain:

Q. I am learning to manage the onset of osteoarthritis, so I have tried many over the counter treatments. I do read the labels, even the ones that require you to peel them back from the bottle. That’s where I read you should only take ibuprofen for 14 days, so I saw my doctor.

She told me it was all right to keep taking it. So I did, every six hours, 24/7 for two years. I knew it could damage my kidneys, regardless of what the doctor allowed. I knew that if that happened I could end up needing dialysis treatments!

Fortunately, a naturopath I know recommended a curcumin product. For the last several months I have been satisfied with its effects on my pain. I am relieved that I am not doing damage to my vital organs. I read about the benefits of curcumin in this column and am pleased to find a safer alternative to the NSAIDs that were a part of my daily regimen to relieve pain.

A. Thank you for your testimonial! A meta-analysis of seven studies found that curcumin alleviates joint pain better than placebo, though not quite as well as ibuprofen (International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, April 2017).

Curcumin appears to be safe, although some people develop allergic reactions to it and others may experience elevated liver enzymes. We always caution people not to use turmeric or curcumin if they are on an anticoagulant such as warfarin.

Do Warm Water Soaks Ease Arthritis Pain?

Q. What do you think of heating Epsom salts in the microwave and soaking one’s hands in the warm water for ten minutes or so to help with arthritic hands?  What other suggestions do you have?

A. Soaking sore fingers in a warm paraffin wax “bath” is a tried and true approach for easing arthritis pain. (See below.) German researchers have also studied the effects of mountain hiking plus soaks in a hot spring containing magnesium sulfate (BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, May 17, 2019). The soaks were helpful. Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate, so we suspect your technique might be beneficial. Read on for some other options you may wish to try.

Remedies to Ease Arthritis Pain Without Harming Stomach:

Q. I have arthritis in my fingers and I’m sure using the computer has compounded the pain. Due to an ulcer, I can’t take anti-inflammatory medication. Could you suggest other natural approaches that might help and not hurt my sensitive stomach?

I heard your radio program on fish oil and do take 1200 mg twice a day. It helps, but I need something else. Would it be good to rub ointment on the hands or use hot or cold cloths on them?

Warm Paraffin Can Help Stiff Fingers:

A. Some people find that warm paraffin can ease the pain of arthritis in fingers. There are devices that heat the paraffin to a safe temperature so you can dip your fingers into the wax to experience the healing heat. An analysis of seven smallish studies 20 years ago found that paraffin wax baths together with exercises can ease arthritis pain in fingers and hands (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2002). It’s too bad that home remedies rarely get more intensive attention.

Visitors to our website have found certain other approaches helpful. These nondrug options include:

Certo & Grape Juice:

MAC shared this story:

“I read about pectin and grape juice and suggested it to my friend who had had a hip replacement. When she was here for a visit, she was still having arthritis pain. She used the pectin with pomegranate juice, but stopped before it was effective. I read on this site that it takes two weeks to kick in.

“My sister has had one hip replaced twice and was having days where she could hardly move until mid-afternoon because of arthritis pains. I told her about the pectin (Certo) and grape juice. Being my older sister, I didn’t think she would listen but she called and said she was starting it. I told her not to expect anything overnight; it will take a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I had been having flare-ups in my hips, so I thought what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I went and got my bottle of Welch’s grape juice and a packet of liquid Certo and off I went.

“I have to tell you BOTH of us have found it to ease arthritis pain. When my sister told me she was so much better, I was like harrah harrah. (She listened!) My friend also went back on the regimen and is getting results.”

MH agrees:

“Ok ya’ll…..this Certo/Grape Juice combo is AWESOME! It is completely, totally unbelievable!

“I could hardly move after sitting for any length of time and after taking this just a couple of times (forgot to take it EVERY day) I am pain free! I can actually get out of bed and start walking without being in pain; I can actually get up from a chair at a restaurant and start walking without pain; I can actually get up from my chair at work and walk to the printer WITHOUT BEING IN PAIN! I am totally amazed! I will definitely keep taking it!”

Gin-Soaked Raisins:

AMR is a fan of gin-soaked raisins:

“I tried the golden raisins soaked in gin. Very unusual for me because I abstain from alcohol. I put the raisins in my morning oatmeal along with a variety of nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Whoopee! Hic! My knees are nice to me now.”

Cindy shared hers with a person who wanted to ease arthritis pain:

“I gave about a 2 week’s supply of G-S-R [gin-soaked-raisins] to one of the fellows who works at our local Ace Hardware store. I noticed how stiff he was when he was getting out of his vehicle to go to work. He said they had really helped ease arthritis pain in his shoulders. He has his own mix ‘brewing’ right now. I also printed out a collection of anecdotes from your website on the subject and encouraged him to sign up for your newsletter.”

Tart Cherry Juice:

CG likes tart cherry juice:

“I am in my early 60’s and have been hobbling around like an old man for the last several years after a couple of bad bouts with gout. I have been on a prescription drug to treat that, along with various other meds for my high cholesterol and blood pressure, etc. I am sure they all contributed to all my aches and pains.

“Several months ago I felt gout flaring up in my big toe and instead of getting a new drug to treat this, I did some research online. I read that concentrated tart cherry juice every day can knock this out almost overnight and for long term treatment as well.

“I had a hard time finding concentrated tart cherry juice but finally found a bottle at a health food store ($17 per bottle). I cringed at paying this much for cherry juice, but I took two tablespoons of the stuff before going to bed. I woke up the next morning with no pain in my big toe. Then, a couple of days later, I realized that the very creaky and painful bones in my feet, ankles, knees and hips were not hurting, and I was no longer hobbling when I walked.

“Now, several months later, I am still virtually pain free. I considered jogging a little, but decided I’d better still wait awhile before attempting getting back into that kind of routine. BUT it is so good to be rid of the daily pain I had and to be able to walk normally again.”

Turmeric (Curcumin):

DP has been taking turmeric:

“Turmeric works for me. The end joints on my little fingers get red, swollen and painful. I started taking turmeric, and within days the pain and swelling were gone. They are still a little red.

“I ran out of turmeric capsules for two weeks and back came the pain and swelling. So I know it works for me to ease arthritis pain. Instead of buying turmeric in capsules, I buy empty gel capsules and use a capsule filling board to fill 50 in about 10 to 12 minutes. That saves me $20. One can purchase fresh turmeric by the ounce at good health food stores in the bulk spice section. Wear an apron: turmeric is also a dye.”

Learn More:

If you have ever found yourself wondering what to do to ease arthritis pain besides taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), you might like lots more details about the remedies mentioned above. You’ll also learn about other natural approaches such as boswellia, cayenne, honey and vinegar, pineapple juice and vitamin D. Details about all these non-drug options can be found in The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

You could learn more about curcumin and many other unconventional approaches to treating arthritis pain in our eGuide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Those who prefer print may want to consider the book version, Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Some of the options include boswellia, turmeric, ginger, ashwagandha, stinging nettle, MSM and SAMe. Home remedies range from gin-soaked raisins to Knox Gelatin and tart cherries.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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  • Onakpoya IJ et al, "Effectiveness of curcuminoids in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials." International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, April 2017. DOI: 10.1111/1756-185X.13069
  • Huber D et al, "Green exercise and mg-ca-SO4 thermal balneotherapy for the treatment of non-specific chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled clinical trial." BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, May 17, 2019. doi: 10.1186/s12891-019-2582-4
  • Robinson V et al, "Thermotherapy for treating rheumatoid arthritis." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2002. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002826
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