People who have arthritis are probably already well aware of the ways chronic and fluctuating pain can seep into the day-to-day. Anything from a dull ache to a burning sensation can keep you from doing simple tasks easily.
Dr. Amy Kehl, a rheumatologist with Providence St John’s Physician Partners and staff physician at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, told HuffPost that arthritis is a condition that can come in many forms, both degenerative and inflammatory.
“Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting 1 in 7 adults, and this is likely to affect more and more adults as the population ages and the obesity trend continues,” Kehl said.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative type that most commonly affects the hands, knees and hips, Kehl said, noting it’s more complex than just the “wear and tear” type of arthritis that’s related to cartilage degeneration. It can result an inflammatory response which additionally generates discomfort.
Kehl explained that different patients will almost always experience arthritis pain differently, thus pain management solutions will also vary. Generally speaking, both strengthening and aerobic exercise are encouraged to help reduce pain but “of course, the treatments should be personalized to the patient and meeting with a rheumatologist to decide the best treatment option, whether it be pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic, is always a good idea,” she said.
Kehl and other arthritis experts helped us create this list of over-the-counter pain-relieving options and explained how each product can potentially be beneficial.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
Vibrating heated knee braces
Kehl said that for many patients, topical heat can be therapeutic, especially in the colder months. Experts also previously told HuffPost
that heat can reduce inflammation and encourage blood flow to muscles.
These heated knee braces combine a stabilizing effect on joints with soothing heat, and can be worn during regular activities. The wraps also feature four vibrating massage modes and two adjustable heat settings.
A breathable thumb spica splint
“For thumb osteoarthritis, I do recommend a thumb spica splint which is a brace that can be found over the counter,” Kehl said. This breathable brace stabilizes the thumb while giving free range of movement to all other digits. It uses velcro straps and comes in three sizes for the best fit possible.
A digital TENS unit
Dr. Carlos Guanche
, a Los Angeles-based orthopedic surgeon, told HuffPost that the theory behind TENS units is that they stimulate the superficial nerves in the body that exhaust some of the pain fibers that typically cause pain around a joint.
“Some patients do get very significant improvement with these devices,” Guanche said. “For that reason, we often recommend that patients purchase an over-the-counter device that will serve as a test to see whether the stronger prescription device would be more effective.”
This model is relatively affordable, has over 63,700 five-star Amazon ratings and features five modes of custom stimulation.
An at-home paraffin wax treatment for hands
“For hand osteoarthritis, paraffin wax treatments can be helpful for pain relief,” Kehl suggested. At-home kits like this don’t require a large salon-style wax warmer because the disposable gloves come pre-filled with a deeply hydrating and soothing paraffin. Enriched with jojoba oil, glycerin and lavender essential oil, they’re reusable up to four treatments.
A best selling anti-tear yoga mat with blocks
Dr. Jonathan S. Hausmann
is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School’s division of rheumatology, allergy and immunology in Massachusetts. He said that “a combination of aerobic and strengthening exercises is usually helpful in improving joint function and decreasing pain.”
All of the experts HuffPost spoke to suggested participating in low-impact exercise such as pilates, yoga and even Tai Chi for arthritis of the hip and knee. Plus, he said that maintaining a healthy weight can decrease the impact of pain in the hips and knees.
If you don’t already have a yoga mat at home, this one is made from an ultra-thick and high density foam that is cushiony on knees, hips and the spine. It also conveniently rolls up into its included carrying strap and comes with two foam yoga blocks.
A pair of copper-infused compression gloves
Guanche suggested that non-supportive compression devices may offer some improvement in symptoms. These fingerless and machine-washable compression gloves are infused with copper the company claims will reduce inflammation, however the evidence
supporting that particular claim is limited.
A 500-count bestselling and classic NSAID pain reliever
Hausmann cautions that systemic NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen, should be taken with care, even if they are common for arthritis and pain relief. These are non-steroidal medications that can reduce inflammation, making joint pain more manageable.
Individuals with certain bleeding disorders, stomach ulcers, kidney disease or asthma should talk to their doctor before taking NSAIDs.
Voltaren arthritis gel
Kehl suggested using Voltaren gel, which is a topical anti-inflammatory that can be applied to affected joints and doesn’t require a prescription. “Only 15% of Voltaren gel gets absorbed systemically and so this may be a preferred alternative in patients who otherwise have a contraindication to systemic anti-inflammatories,” she said.
This non-steroidal and hydrating gel imparts a cooling sensation when applied and can help reduce stiffness and aches and improve mobility.
A deeply penetrative capsaicin cream
According to Guanche, creams containing capsaicin (the natural active component of chili peppers) can help reduce some arthritis pain.
“This medication works by decreasing a substance in the body that helps send pain signals to the brain. It is very effective in many cases, especially in more superficial joints such as the knees and the hands and feet,” he said.
Capzasin HP is a popular and odor-free cream that’s available over the counter and contains 0.1% capsaicin.