Strange Arthritis Treatments That May Actually Work

More than 30 million Americans are living with osteoarthritis—the wear-and-tear form of the condition that causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And all of them are looking for ways to ease the ache.

Although the condition can’t be cured, arthritis treatments like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescription medications, and physical therapy often bring relief from symptoms.

If those aren’t working for you, you might want to try one of these more out-of-the-ordinary options.

Tai Chi

In a study from 2013, researchers found that people with arthritis who did tai chi, a low-impact exercise that incorporates slow, gentle movements, had less pain and stiffness and more physical functionality after just 12 weeks.

And an Annalsof Internal Medicinestudy found the ancient practice may be as effective as physical therapy for osteoarthritis in the knee.

Drinking milk

Got arthritis? A large study from Harvard Medical School suggests drinking milk may slow the progression of knee arthritis.

Researchers found that the more milk women (but not men) drank, the less narrowing they had in the joint space in their knee.

Just don’t overdo it; women in the study who ate seven or more servings of cheese per week actually lost joint space.

Bee stings

This is a no-go if you happen to be allergic to bee stings, unfortunately: A clinical trial is in progress to see whether injecting joints with a new drug that is a purified form of bee venom could be an effective arthritis treatment.

This treatment may sound odd, but a review published in BMJ Open found evidence that bee venom may help treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in people.


Frankincense is the dried sap from trees in the Boswellia genus. And boswellic acids—the active components in frankincense—may have strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, according to the Arthritis Foundation. In fact, a 2010 study confirmed frankincense as a potential arthritis treatment for reducing inflammatory symptoms linked to osteoarthritis.


The warming spice may also be a healing one. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties similar to NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Why that matters: Inflammation contributes toward pain around the affected joints.

A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatology found people who took ginger capsules twice a day for six months had 40 percent less pain than those who swallowed a placebo.

Even though they don’t smell as good as gingerbread or ginger tea, the capsules are your best bet.

Lead study author Roy Altman, MD, told the Arthritis Foundation that the amount of ginger in food and drink may not contain enough ginger to have an effect.

Chili peppers

Capsaicin, a compound in peppers that provides the heat, temporarily reduces a pain transmitter, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Several studies, including one published in Phytotherapy Research, offer proof. The researchers found people who used a cream containing capsaicin had a 50 percent reduction in joint pain after three weeks of use.



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