Why Choose an Alternative?
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, and piroxicam are the standard remedy for relieving rheumatoid arthritis flare ups. While these drugs do in many cases quell the pain and inflammation that can make arthritis too difficult to bear they do nothing for overall well-being, and in fact they have serious negative side effects. Especially for sufferers who may take these medications on a daily basis there is a risk of developing stomach ulcers and damage to the liver or kidneys. Using alternative techniques for a rheumatoid arthritis flare up is possible to treat the discomfort without the use of drugs. With some methods you may just even increase your overall well-being as well.
Hot and Cold Therapy
One of the simplest yet most effective techniques for pain and inflammation is hot and cold therapy. When your arthritis flares place a cold ice pack on the inflamed area. Alternate this with heat therapy, such as the use of a heating pad or a hot castor oil pack.
To make a hot castor oil pack for joint pain heat castor oil on the stove, but do not bring to a boil. Saturate a clean cotton cloth in the oil and then place it over the painful area, holding it in place with a piece of plastic. To keep the castor oil warm, place a heating pad over the plastic if desired.
Hot baths and showers can also bring relief. Jump in the shower for five minutes when you wake up, using very warm water to increase blood circulation and loosen stiff joints. Soak in a hot tub or hot bath water for twenty minutes to bring relief. Try Epsom salt baths and seaweed baths for a more potent healing effect.
Ice packs and heating pads are safe for general use. Talk to your doctor before taking a hot bath if you are pregnant or if you have high blood pressure.
Capsaicin cream can be used for arthritis flare ups. Capsaicin is an alkaloid compound found in chili peppers. It is what makes spicy peppers hot, but it also has benefits for reliving pain. How does it work? Capsaicin is known to reduce substance P, which helps to transmit pain signals to the brain.
Capsaicin cream can be found in most drug stores. It can be applied to the skin where joint pain and inflammation occurs. It may cause
sensations of heat and even stinging, but this goes away. Do not use on broken skin and wash your hands after applying.
Aromatherapy for Arthritis
Another alternative method for treating rheumatoid arthritis pain is the use of essential oils. Essential oils are the extracted essences of plants. They are highly concentrated and are not meant to be ingested, but rather inhaled. The aroma molecules enter the body through the olfactory nerves, then enter the bloodstream and trigger reactions in the brain. Aromatherapy is a gentle and instantaneous therapy for pain relief and the reduction of stress and anxiety.
Try placing three to four drops of an essential oil of your choice on a cotton napkin and inhaling as needed. You can soak in an aromatherapy bath — use seven drops in a cup of water and then add to bathwater. Another method is to place four drops in a bowl of hot water. Beneficial essential oils for arthritis pain include lavender, clove bud, cypress, and sweet birch.
Talk to your doctor before using aromatherapy if you are pregnant of if you have any other medical conditions. Only use essential oils for about twenty minutes at a time and in small amounts.
A Ginger Compress
Herbs can also be beneficial for painful flare ups. Try making an herbal compress with fresh ginger. Make a strong infusion with one tablespoon of fresh ginger for two cups of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes. Soak a clean cotton cloth in the infusion to soak up all of the liquid. Apply to the affected area for about fifteen minutes, allowing the beneficial properties of the plant to enter through the skin and bring relief.
Ginger is a warming herb that will stimulate peripheral circulation and encourage the removal of toxins from the body. There are no negative side effects of applying a ginger compress to the skin, although be sure not to put onto broken skin.
There is no right or wrong way to treat pain and inflammation as long as you are using safe methods for relief. There are many different alternative techniques for a rheumatoid arthritis flare up. Try one, try them all. Use them instead of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications after talking to your doctor, or use them once in awhile so you do not have to take as many drugs for the pain.
Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition” (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated https://dermnetnz.org/treatments/capsaicin.html
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photo by Crystal (CC/flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/crystalflickr/414597272/