Wrists and fingers are the most common sites of arthritis flares for women in their mid-40s and up. So we asked the experts to share some proven strategies for flexible and pain-free hands.
How to Ease the Aches
Sip tart cherry juice.
Move over, red wine: There’s another ruby-hued “tonic” to enjoy daily. “Tart cherry juice contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds that tamp down arthritis pain in your hands quickly,” notes natural health expert Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD. In fact, drinking 6 oz. of tart cherry juice daily for 21 days is shown to significantly alleviate arthritis pain, per research out of Michigan State University in East Lansing. If unsweetened cherry juice is a bit too tart for your tastes, dilute it with alkaline water (available in supermarkets). “Many people with arthritis have excessively acidic pH levels in their bodies,” explains Schoffro Cook, “and taking in alkaline water helps restore pH balance and reduce pain.”
Cultivate your “garden.”
“Your gut is like a garden — and everything from antacids to chronic stress can cause a few ‘weeds,’ or bad bacteria, to sprout up, triggering arthritis flare-ups,” reveals arthritis expert Susan Blum, MD. To spur the growth of healthy bacteria and relieve aches, fill up on fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, or probiotic-rich yogurt, which according to a recent study, contains two bacteria shown to dial down pain more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs.
Enjoy a big salad.
Toss spring greens with a drizzle of olive oil, top with 3 oz. of salmon, and a handful of sliced almonds, and you’re well on your way to alleviating arthritis pain! How? This antioxidant-rich meal delivers an abundance of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which, Dr. Blum explains, are shown to reduce the inflammation that causes aches and swelling in your hands.
How to Sidestep Flare-Ups
Squeeze a ball.
Movement is medicine, our experts agree. “Gentle exercises lubricate your joints, helping stop flare-ups,” confirms natural-health expert Mark V. Wiley, PhD. One of the most effective ways to ward off pain is with a simple stretch. “Just open up your hand as though you’re waving at someone, then slowly close it like you’re squeezing the air out of a small ball, touching your fingertips to your palm; repeat three sets of 10 per day,” he advises. Practicing such gentle exercises regularly is shown to reduce arthritis symptoms by more than 50 percent.
Try a “hot” topical.
A soothing ointment made with capsaicin cream can relieve flare-ups, says Wiley. “Capsaicin, which gives chili peppers their tongue-tingling heat, also helps relieve pain,” he observes. In fact, in one study, 80 percent of patients treated with capsaicin cream experienced pain reduction within two weeks. One to try: Capzasin High Potency Arthritis Pain Relief ($9.97, Walmart).
Press your knuckles.
Acupressure is proven to alleviate arthritis pain, promises Schoffro Cook. “Just press the spaces located between your knuckles when you make a fist to help boost blood flow and prevent stiffness,” she says. According to researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, this simple move stimulates the body to release pain-killing endorphins, reducing pain significantly.
Our Expert Panel
Mark V. Wiley, PhD, author of Arthritis Reversed: Groundbreaking 30 Day Arthritis Relief Action Plan ($15.03, Amazon), is a natural-health expert.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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