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How can I Reduce Arthritis Swelling?

To reduce arthritis swelling, a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments is key. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods, regular gentle exercise, and proper medication can significantly alleviate symptoms. Cold and hot therapies also offer relief. For a visual guide on these strategies and more, explore our detailed pictorial walkthrough. Ready to ease your discomfort? Let's take a closer look at each step.
Caitlin Shih
Caitlin Shih

You can reduce arthritis swelling through a variety of medications and lifestyle changes. Although over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen are most commonly used in the early stages of arthritis, they can lose their effectiveness as the disease progresses. When this occurs, stronger prescription medications such as cortisone and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used. In general, these medications work best alongside healthy lifestyle changes such as a wholesome diet and the proper amount of exercise and rest. Other home remedies for arthritis swelling include fish oil or flax seed, eucalyptus oil and heat packs or ice packs, depending on the person. Stress reduction and alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture have also been said to work for some arthritis patients.

NSAIDs work for arthritis swelling by blocking prostaglandins, which are a chemical that assists in the process of inflammation. Aspirin and ibuprofen are examples of NSAIDs that are available over the counter. Some stronger prescription NSAIDs also have been found to work for arthritis.

Medications and lifestyle changes might reduce arthritis swelling.
Medications and lifestyle changes might reduce arthritis swelling.

Cortisone is related to the hormone cortisol, which aids in suppressing the immune system to reduce swelling. This drug can be taken by mouth, used in a topical cream or injected directly into the joints. Cortisone shots are typically extremely powerful, and one shot can last as long as several months. High doses or long-term use, however, can result in adverse side effects such as osteoporosis, nerve damage, joint infection and increased blood pressure, among others. Cortisone treatments are therefore generally recommended only for short-term use and as a last resort when other medications have failed.

Flax seed oil is believed to help with arthritis pain.
Flax seed oil is believed to help with arthritis pain.

Different people can have different reactions to medication, so it is important to keep close track of your body as you try different medications and to speak with your doctor first about which might work best for you. It is generally agreed that a proper balance of regular exercise and rest also can greatly aid in reducing inflammation. Specifically, it is recommended that patients rest when the disease is especially severe but exercise during the times when the arthritis is mild. Exercises that do not strain joints, such as walking or swimming, are normally the best. Yoga can also be helpful in increasing flexibility and thereby strengthening joints.

Keeping a food journal is a great way to figure out which foods to eat more of and which to avoid.
Keeping a food journal is a great way to figure out which foods to eat more of and which to avoid.

The ideal diet for arthritis swelling can vary from person to person. In general, a nutritious, wholesome diet free of overly processed foods is the best. Certain foods, however, can worsen arthritis symptoms for certain people. Food journals are recommended to help you keep track of what works and doesn't work for you.

Heat — hot baths, heat packs or electric blankets — can help many people in reducing the swelling and stiffness that comes from arthritis. Heat does not work for everyone, though. Other arthritis patients might benefit more from ice packs, although these are not recommended for people who might have circulation problems.

Consuming green tea may reduce inflammation and discomfort caused by arthritis.
Consuming green tea may reduce inflammation and discomfort caused by arthritis.

Natural remedies such as omega-3 and eucalyptus oil have been reported to be helpful in bringing down swelling. Omega-3 can be found in flax seed or fish oil capsules, and eucalyptus oil can be rubbed directly onto the swollen area. Many people have also testified that alternative treatments such as massage therapy and acupuncture are effective for arthritis swelling, but the effectiveness of those treatments can vary from person to person. If you are thinking about trying massage or acupuncture therapy, speak to your doctor first, and make that sure your massage therapist or acupuncturist is a licensed practitioner who has experience in treating arthritis.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

@turquoise-- If oral medications aren't cutting it, why don't you try a cortisone injection? It may sound scary but steroids like cortisone provide great relief from arthritis symptoms. And a single treatment can actually relieve symptoms for a significant period of time. Most people find relief for at leas six months. Some people are even pain free for two years.

Of course, you have to decide the best treatment with your doctor but do consider this as an option if the arthritis swelling just isn't responding to other treatments.

serenesurface

@turquoise-- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are mostly a temporary fix. It's not a good idea to use them regularly for long periods of time because they can cause stomach ulcers as a side effect.

Fish oil is actually an amazing source of omega 3. It's a natural anti-inflammatory. It can reduce pain and swelling much like NSAIDs. But be careful and never mix NSAID medications like aspirin with fish oil supplements in the same day. Aspirin thins blood and so does fish oil. It can cause excessive bleeding or cause issues in people who use coagulant medications. So it's best to avoid mixing them.

turquoise

I've been taking ibuprofen for my arthritis but as the article said, it is starting to lose its effectiveness. I will have to switch to something else soon.

I'm happy to hear about Omega 3 though. I do try to eat foods with omega 3. I'm not a huge fan of fish oil supplements but I may try that as well. I think fish oil supplements are the best source of omega 3.

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    • Medications and lifestyle changes might reduce arthritis swelling.
      By: Denis Pepin
      Medications and lifestyle changes might reduce arthritis swelling.
    • Flax seed oil is believed to help with arthritis pain.
      By: spline_x
      Flax seed oil is believed to help with arthritis pain.
    • Keeping a food journal is a great way to figure out which foods to eat more of and which to avoid.
      By: pio3
      Keeping a food journal is a great way to figure out which foods to eat more of and which to avoid.
    • Consuming green tea may reduce inflammation and discomfort caused by arthritis.
      By: Liv Friis-larsen
      Consuming green tea may reduce inflammation and discomfort caused by arthritis.
    • Regular non-weight bearing exercise like swimming may alleviate the swelling associated with arthritis.
      By: yanlev
      Regular non-weight bearing exercise like swimming may alleviate the swelling associated with arthritis.
    • When NSAIDs prove ineffective, doctors might recommend corticosteroid shots to the affected joint.
      By: ia_64
      When NSAIDs prove ineffective, doctors might recommend corticosteroid shots to the affected joint.
    • A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen may be used to reduce arthritis swelling.
      By: Geo Martinez
      A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen may be used to reduce arthritis swelling.
    • Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints.
      By: maska82
      Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints.
    • Some arthritis patients have found acupuncture to be effective.
      By: Alfred Wekelo
      Some arthritis patients have found acupuncture to be effective.