As we age, we change. Some of these changes are wonderful, like becoming wiser and cultivating greater self-awareness. But some changes can be uncomfortable and painful, like developing arthritis. If you are starting to lose grace in your hands, feet, and joints, it can be easy to feel old and frustrated. But there are simple things you can do at home to ease pain, retain mobility, and potentially restore freedom in your joints. These practices have helped me stay active and mobile as I age, even if some days are more graceful than others.
~ Outside In
There are several things you can do for immediate relief from arthritis symptoms. If your joints are inflamed, placing a cold compress of ice wrapped in a towel directly on the painful joint, or even a bag of frozen peas or berries, can reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Heat is also very helpful at easing stiffness and pain that is more of a dull ache rather than the sharp heat of inflammation. You can make a hot compress with a towel, or use a hot water bottle, electric blanket, or flexible heating pad. Its best to only use concentrated heat for 20 minutes at a time. Some people find that alternating heat and cold is a very effective treatment.
Another great way to warm up and open joints is a hot bath with Epsom salts. You can make a smaller soak for just your hands or feet, or take a regular bathtub with at least 2 cups of Epsom salts.
If your hands are arthritic, sleeping in tight-fitting gloves can reduce stiffness and improve mobility because they keep the hands warm all night. Be sure they are snug but not so tight they cut off circulation.
Some creams made with capsaicin can provide relief because they reduce inflammation and increase circulation. A homemade fresh ginger compress (a cloth soaked in concentrated ginger tea) can help for the same reasons.
Eucalyptus essential oil diluted in sweet almond, jojoba, or sesame oil makes a great treatment for stiff joints. It can be helpful to rub your joints with oil before you exercise. The Ayurvedic daily practice of abhyanga, self-massage with warm oil, is a wonderful preventative practice and treatment and one of my favorite ways to start the day.
~ Inside Out
You can support the health and ease of your joints by taking certain supplements. A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin reduces pain and slows cartilage loss.
Ginger and turmeric are both helpful because they reduce inflammation and improve circulation. You can add them to most savory foods, or make tea from the fresh rhizomes or powder. Concentrated turmeric supplements tend to be more effective than the powdered spice.
SAM-e is another supplement that can be effective at preserving cartilage.
~ Long Term Support
To keep your joints supple and pain-free for as long as possible, you need to care for them. Eat a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory vegetables. Also eat plenty of foods with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, and other joint-strengthening minerals. Stay away from sugar, processed food, red meat, and other foods that cause inflammation.
Exercise regularly. Exercise keeps joints mobile and preserves their elasticity. Range of motion exercises are the most important. Many arthritis sufferers are helped by exercising in water, because it relieves pressure on the joints while still developing range of motion. Isometric exercises are helpful, as well.
While arthritis can be frustrating and painful, it doesnt need to be debilitating. Keeping the joints warm, massaging your body with oil, eating anti-inflammatory foods, and exercising can help you maintain some grace and ease in your joints, even into your golden years.