Got joint pain? You’re not alone: Nearly 60 percent of us experience low-level pain, stiffness, or achiness in our joints at some point. But if you want to stay healthy, energetic and vibrant for years to come, keeping your joints in great shape is key. That’s because strong, shock-resistant joints make day-to-day activities a breeze, plus allow you to stay mobile, vibrants, and active. Keep your joints healthy with these natural pain relievers you can try right at home.
1. Fruits for knee joint pain.
Mangos and papayas are packed with beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-colored pigment that reduces your risk of joint pain as much as 46 percent, British research shows. This pigment is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and painkiller that speeds the healing of damaged joint cartilage. For study-proven protection, eat three cups of mango and/or papaya, fresh or frozen, each week.
2. Leafy greens and arthritis.
The more leafy greens you eat, the lower your risk of ever developing arthritis, or the slower arthritis will progress if you already have it, Boston University studies show. Greens are rich in copper, manganese and vitamin K, nutrients that nourish, strengthen and heal joint-cushioning cartilage, the study authors explain. In fact, eating just one heaping cup daily could increase the strength and flexibility of your joints 30 percent in two months, research suggests.
3. Vitamin D and immune system.
Research in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology reveals that simply soaking up 20 minutes of sunshine daily (without sunscreen) can keep away run-of-the-mill joint pain and stiffness, slowing joint aging as much as 57 percent. Your skin uses sunlight to make vitamin D, a bone-strengthening nutrient that also forces immune cells to behave properly, so that they protect your joint tissue instead of attacking it, says study co-author Chris Antoniadis, M.D. Not outdoors that often? Taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily is also protective. Important: Always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
4. Improve flexibility with avocados.
Finding it a little harder to get out of chairs these days? Eating three avocados weekly could make your joints — and you! — feel 40 percent more limber, British studies suggest. Avocados are packed with oleic acid, a healing fat that reduces your production of joint-stiffening hormones called prostaglandins. It can also relieve aches and pains as effectively as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), without the worry of negative side effects, the study authors say.
5. Gentle exercises can help.
Over a dozen studies prove that exercising three times weekly cuts your risk of arthritis in half, and, if you’re already achy, slashes your pain and improves your joint flexibility and strength 55 percent. The snag? Vigorous workouts inflame tender joints! To the rescue: Tai chi, a gentle, flowing form of exercise that decreases joint pain as much as 33%, and significantly increases strength, flexibility and balance, in as little as three months, research in the Journal of Rheumatology shows. Tai chi improves blood flow and circulation to all of your joints?without hurting them with high-impact moves, says study co-author Paul Lam, M.D. Tip: To get started, try the free lessons offered online at TaiChiForHealthInstitute.org.
6. Natural eggshell membrane may bring relief.
Already a little achy? A daily 500-mg. dose of natural eggshell membrane (NEM) could relieve your joint pain 72% (and increase your flexibility and mobility 42%) in as little as two months, shows research in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging. Unlike over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, eggshell membrane is packed with compounds that actually repair damaged cartilage, the study authors explain. One option: Healthy Origins’ Eggshell Membrane ($14.69 for 30 capsules, Amazon.com).
7. White willow bark is an option.
The bark of the white willow tree is an ancient, proven remedy for pain and inflammation — and no wonder. “White willow bark contains salicin, the same pain-relieving ingredient found in aspirin,” says naturopath Eugene Zampieron. “But white willow bark also has plant compounds that make it gentler on your stomach.” In one study, a daily 240-mg. dose of white willow bark provided as much pain relief as a prescription drug! (One option: Swanson Maximum Strength White Willow Bark, $9.98; Amazon.com).
8. Hand exercises will keep you pain-free.
Achy fingers and wrists are the top ache among women. In fact, nearly half of us develop arthritis in our hands, given how much we use them for everything from texting to knitting. Luckily, it’s easy to decrease the risk or stop any existing trouble from worsening. “Simply taking time to stretch your hands every day will go a long way toward keeping them flexible and pain-free,” confirms Harvard Medical School pain expert Edward Phillips, M.D. It takes only a minute a day: Each morning before beginning your day, simply circle your wrists slowly 10 times in each direction. Then gently clench your hands for 10 seconds. Next, open your fingers wide for 10 seconds. Repeat in the evening.
9. Dehydration and joint pain.
A big reason achy joints and stiffness increase in warm weather is dehydration, which eight in 10 of us experience daily without even realizing it. “We need enough water to keep the collagen that protects our joints thick and cushiony,” explains Zampieron. “If we don’t get enough, collagen can shrink, causing joint pain.” That’s why just drinking eight 8-oz. glasses a day of plain H2O can alleviate joint aches.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.