How Can I Reduce Arthritis Swelling?

When NSAIDs prove ineffective, doctors might recommend corticosteroid shots to the affected joint.
A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen may be used to reduce arthritis swelling.
Medications and lifestyle changes might reduce arthritis swelling.
Consuming green tea may reduce inflammation and discomfort caused by arthritis.
Regular non-weight bearing exercise like swimming may alleviate the swelling associated with arthritis.
Keeping a food journal is a great way to figure out which foods to eat more of and which to avoid.
Flax seed oil is believed to help with arthritis pain.
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  • Written By: Caitlin Shih
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2014
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You can reduce arthritis swelling through a variety of medications and lifestyle changes. Although over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen are most commonly used in the early stages of arthritis, they can lose their effectiveness as the disease progresses. When this occurs, stronger prescription medications such as cortisone and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used. In general, these medications work best alongside healthy lifestyle changes such as a wholesome diet and the proper amount of exercise and rest. Other home remedies for arthritis swelling include fish oil or flax seed, eucalyptus oil and heat packs or ice packs, depending on the person. Stress reduction and alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture have also been said to work for some arthritis patients.

NSAIDs work for arthritis swelling by blocking prostaglandins, which are a chemical that assists in the process of inflammation. Aspirin and ibuprofen are examples of NSAIDs that are available over the counter. Some stronger prescription NSAIDs also have been found to work for arthritis.


Cortisone is related to the hormone cortisol, which aids in suppressing the immune system to reduce swelling. This drug can be taken by mouth, used in a topical cream or injected directly into the joints. Cortisone shots are typically extremely powerful, and one shot can last as long as several months. High doses or long-term use, however, can result in adverse side effects such as osteoporosis, nerve damage, joint infection and increased blood pressure, among others. Cortisone treatments are therefore generally recommended only for short-term use and as a last resort when other medications have failed.

Different people can have different reactions to medication, so it is important to keep close track of your body as you try different medications and to speak with your doctor first about which might work best for you. It is generally agreed that a proper balance of regular exercise and rest also can greatly aid in reducing inflammation. Specifically, it is recommended that patients rest when the disease is especially severe but exercise during the times when the arthritis is mild. Exercises that do not strain joints, such as walking or swimming, are normally the best. Yoga can also be helpful in increasing flexibility and thereby strengthening joints.

The ideal diet for arthritis swelling can vary from person to person. In general, a nutritious, wholesome diet free of overly processed foods is the best. Certain foods, however, can worsen arthritis symptoms for certain people. Food journals are recommended to help you keep track of what works and doesn't work for you.

Heat — hot baths, heat packs or electric blankets — can help many people in reducing the swelling and stiffness that comes from arthritis. Heat does not work for everyone, though. Other arthritis patients might benefit more from ice packs, although these are not recommended for people who might have circulation problems.

Natural remedies such as omega-3 and eucalyptus oil have been reported to be helpful in bringing down swelling. Omega-3 can be found in flax seed or fish oil capsules, and eucalyptus oil can be rubbed directly onto the swollen area. Many people have also testified that alternative treatments such as massage therapy and acupuncture are effective for arthritis swelling, but the effectiveness of those treatments can vary from person to person. If you are thinking about trying massage or acupuncture therapy, speak to your doctor first, and make that sure your massage therapist or acupuncturist is a licensed practitioner who has experience in treating arthritis.


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