After seeing hundreds of people with osteoarthritis, I have compiled as list of 11 arthritis must haves to help you find pain relief. Keep in mind, each person’s body will respond differently to each of these strategies below. That is why it is so important to have options in your “tool box” if you encounter a flare up or are just looking for pain relief while avoiding surgery! Check them out below.
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Build your toolbox, find more relief
The more options you have, the more confident you will feel about your pain relief.
I met Debbie* a while back. She was dealing with unrelenting knee and hip pain. The worst was when she experienced flare-ups. She felt hopeless every time she went through one because she just wasn’t sure when her pain was going to go away.
When we met, she was desperate for answers and wanted to get out of pain without having surgery. I asked her what her plan was each time she had a flare up. She said “just try to get through the day”.
What she didn’t realize is that she had options. She had tried searching online but was so overwhelmed. There were so many different products, supplements, medications, etc. She didn’t even know where to start.
She tried a few things but nothing worked for her. She was continually disappointed because these products would work maybe for a week, then her pain would come back.
She reached out because wanted something that worked. She felt like she was backed into a corner and wanted a way out.
Now, she has a cheat sheet. Now, she knows exactly what to do for pain relief. When she has a flare up, she knows how to break free from the pain confidently. She knows what works.
What if you could experience the same results? What if you had your own cheat sheet?
When it comes to osteoarthritis, everyone’s cheat sheet to pain relief may look different.
In this post I want to help you start building your own cheat sheet by giving you the top 11 arthritis must haves that have worked for our clients previously and could work for you too!
TOP 11 Arthritis Must Haves List
These 11 tools below can make a big difference to your osteoarthritis pain. Each will be used in it’s own situation.
Please keep in mind that everyone does respond differently to different things. The goal is to choose at least 2-3 of these to try first and see if they are successful.
Each of these tools will be used best in combination with other lifestyle factors such as movement, food choices, sleep quality, etc.
Arthritis Must-Haves #1: Topical Ointment
Topical creams like Voltaren, can bring you pain relief by rubbing it on each of the affected areas. Arthritis adventurers have mentioned these creams have brought temporary pain relief to knees, hands, and lower backs.
It works best if you are planning on walking longer distances, going to be on your feet for longer periods of time, or even when sleeping. It can help you get through the activity without being distracted by pain.
It can also help with recovery after a day of overactivity or even during a flare up. You simply rub the lotion on the affected area and most of these creams work pretty quickly.
Topical ointments do tend to have less side effects which can make them appealing. Skin rashes and reactions can be possible depending on the ingredients and how your body responds.
It is great to have a topical ointment in your pain relief tool box because if you are in a pinch and need some quick relief, these may be able to help.
The one thing these ointments likely won’t help with is stiffness. If joint stiffness is your biggest problem keep scrolling- movement will likely be your friend. Learn more on that here.
Arthritis Must-Haves #2: Resistance Loops
If you have been following Keep the Adventure Alive, you know that I put a high value on movement and strengthening in order to find arthritis relief. I
If you can show your body it can move confidently and pain free, you have opened the door to so many opportunities for adventure.
Resistance loops are both inexpensive, easy to travel with and versatile which makes them attractive.
As you may already know, adding resistance to exercises can help to further build strength which is an important step in joint pain relief.
There are many beneficial exercises you can do with these. Whether you are having shoulder pain, low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, or ankle pain these loops can bring you pain relief with a consistent exercise routine.
Keep in mind, you likely will not get immediate relief but you will get lasting relief. Allowing yourself 10-15 minutes per day to show your body how it is supposed to be moving can be a game changer for your pain. You can have this arthritis must have for less that $20!
Here are some introductory videos if you are thinking “Okay, these bands are great but what the heck do I do with them?!” I got you covered.
Arthritis Must Haves #3: Compression Sleeves
Compression can make painful joints feel good, like really good. Think about how you feel when you get a hug (from someone you want to be hugging you). You feel good!
Think of compression as giving your joint a hug. It just so happens that the sensors in your body that sense pain are the same ones that sense compression. By giving your joints compression, you can dull quite a bit of the pain.
There are a variety of different types depending on where your pain primarily resides. There are compression socks, compression knee sleeves, compression hip sleeves, compression gloves and compression back braces.
I usually recommend getting a compression sleeve or brace without any hard pieces in it. Especially for the knee, there are braces that contain hard plastic pieces. These tend to alter movement and may not be the right movements for you and your pain.
The only caveat to this is if you were prescribed one of these braces or if you have tried compression sleeves before with no luck for pain relief.
These are relatively inexpensive and might be worth splurging an extra $20-30 to get a quality product. There are lots of cheaper options that may not provide enough support.
These are great in 3 scenarios.
One, if you are planning lots of activity– walking, running, weight lifting, etc these can feel really nice and prevent swelling along with pain.
Two, when it’s cold out, they can help keep joints warm which can make a drastic difference to pain. This can also help in the morning, for example when your hand feel very stiff or cold in the winter months.
Three, they can help manage stiffness and swelling because the compression sleeve will only allow a certain amount of fluid to collect (this is why many wear those tall compression stockings after surgery or when on their feet for a long time to prevent gravity from pulling too much fluid down to the ankles).
For less than $50, they are absolutely worth a try and are at the top of our arthritis must haves list. This is my go-to brand.
Arthritis must-haves #4: Appropriate Footwear
Shoes can play a huge part in how your joint feels the stress from walking, running, exercising, etc. Without the right support or in absence of support with older, worn out shoes- your joints are likely taking more force than they should. Over time, this can contribute to increased pain.
I met a brand recently that I fell in love with. I typically wear their shoes almost every day. The brand is called, Kuru Footwear.
These shoes were designed to give you the right amount of arch support and even help with plantar fasciitis prevention which can be common with knee or foot arthritis.
These shoes come in a variety of styles and are available for both men and women.
If you are struggling with finding the right shoe for you, stand for long periods of time during the day or if you have had your current shoes for longer than 1 year (depending on how many steps you put on them), these may be a great option to try out!
Finding a good pair of shoes can truly be a game changer to your pain levels, especially when you feel like you have tried everything else.
Arthritis must haves #5: Kettlebell
If you have arthritis it is crucial that you incorporate some degree of strength training into your routine.
Instead of having a ton of different sets of dumbbells, simply 1 or 2 kettlebells can be extremely effective. Kettlebells are versatile and offer lots of options for training no matter your fitness level or your pain severity.
These allow you to add external weight once you have mastered bodyweight movements to take your strengthening to the next level. Muscle support is the absolute best joint support!
If you can start adding external weight to movements without increasing pain, so many doors can open.
For example, completing weighted squats can translate to climbing stairs without pain, picking a laundry basket up from the floor, and squatting down to play with your grandchildren with the ability to get back up!
Kettlebells can help to give you confidence. Take it from one of our hardest working clients. He went from the inability to do a squat without significant knee and back pain to doing one with a 25# kettlebell 30 times without pain! Now he climbs stairs without pain and can actually enjoy hiking with his family- up and down the inclines.
If you are looking for ideas on where to start with a kettlebell, I have a great introductory video below.
Arthritis must haves #6: Variety in your movement
To me, as a physical therapist, variety in movement is of the utmost importance when looking to find arthritis pain relief that lasts.
As humans, most of our movement is in a forward direction. Odds are you rarely move side to side and/or backwards unless you are playing a sport or doing so consciously when exercising.
It has been amazing how influential moving in different directions has been for SO many with osteoarthritis.
Particularly, if you walk for your primary form of exercise, adding in some simple backwards and sideways movement can be life changing in regards to your pain levels.
Learn more about how to add variety here!
Arthritis must haves #7: Turmeric + Curcumin
Turmeric supplements have benefits for osteoarthritis pain by tackling and preventing inflammation. Many people have been able to find joint pain relief using this supplement, but again keep in mind that everyone is different. It is another option to have in your tool box, especially if it brings great results for you.
According to arthritis.org, “In 2016, an industry-sponsored systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that 1,000 mg a day of curcumin reduced OA [Osteoarthritis] pain and inflammation as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like diclofenac and ibuprofen. Another 2016 study suggests curcumin might help prevent bone breakdown in people with RA [Rheumatoid Arthritis].”
It’s important to talk to your physician before beginning Tumeric or another supplement, especially if you are taking blood thinners.
Arthritis must haves #8: Heating Pad
Have you ever thought, “wow my heating pad is my best friend through this” or “I don’t know what I would do without my heating pad”? Maybe you don’t own a heating pad if you haven’t 🙂
I hear this from clients all the time that heat can be a life saver especially during painful flare ups.
Heat is one of those things that has almost zero side effects (besides potential for burning skin if on for too long- which is why we don’t recommend sleeping with one on).
Heat can bring some serious relief. The idea is that heat helps to induce relaxation. It creates more blood flow to the painful area and reduces joint pain and stiffness.
Heat is great in the morning, at night after a long day, or during periods of time you just can’t get rid of pain which is why it has made the list of arthritis must haves.
There’s not necessarily a specific time that you should use it for but it’s usually around the 20-30 minute mark. This also heavily depends on how hot it gets. If you have it on a low setting you can typically keep it on for longer.
When compared to icing, after talking extensively to those with osteoarthritis, most do find more relief with heat. It is something I recommend at least trying, especially after a long day or during a flare up.
Arthritis Must Haves #9: Step stool
If you are looking to get better at stair climbing (both going up and down)- this piece of equipment is a must.
Oftentimes, one of the things that holds people back from doing exercises that help them with stairs is the fact that most stairs can be really high when just starting.
If stairs are too high- exercises can become extremely difficult and can increase joint pain.
This mini step stool is adjustable and can make getting started with stair strengthening exercises more achievable!
You can do so many movements with this step stool- I’ve included an example below:
Arthritis must haves #10: TENS Unit
You attach electrode patches to specific parts on your back that encompass the painful area. It is then usually set to a lower setting which creates small muscle contractions in the area underneath. Pain relief is initiated when your muscles contract and relax which helps to reduce tension.
Again, the side effects are minimal as long as you read the instructions, especially if you are doing it yourself! Check out this one here.
I recommend trying TENs units if you are have difficulty with pain control and relieving joint stiffness.
If you are standing or sitting for longer periods of time because of work or some other task where getting up or changing positions is difficult, you may benefit from one of these!
For better, longer lasting results, make sure you accompany this TENs unit with a proper exercise program like the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint. You may find yourself on a hamster wheel of temporary pain relief if not.
Arthritis must haves #11: A healthcare professional you trust
This can sometimes feel like searching for a diamond in the rough but I promise there is someone out there willing to listen and help!
If you feel like you are being dismissed, missing out on vital options for treatment, and/or if you feel like you aren’t being listened to, these could all be signs it is time to search for another provider.
Whether it is a physical therapist, rheumatologist, primary care physician, sports medicine doctor, functional medicine doctor- they can all help you with your osteoarthritis.
It is always important to get at least a second opinion and maybe even a third opinion, especially if surgery is recommended.
It is of the utmost importance that you find an arthritis specialist you trust. Here are some things to look for in an arthritis specialist that can help you find the person you need.
There are many things out there have potential to ease your pain, stress, and stiffness related to osteoarthritis. This list has been vetted by clients and supporters to help bring you the best list of arthritis must haves.
It is so important to have different options to help you through flare ups and through different adventures! Feeling in control of your pain can be incredibly powerful.
Most of these tools work best when accompanied with an appropriate exercise routine. Join the free 4 day Arthritis Friendly Workout Challenge below to find the best ways to start your journey towards strength and confidence.
Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this video or site. This article contains affiliate links that bring us a small commission without any extra cost to you.
The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint
Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.