7 Doctor-Approved Ways to Reduce Arthritis Pain (and One They Don’t Suggest)

Hip. It’s such a youthful word, isn’t it? Hip and trendy. Hipster. Hip and cool Hip just screams all things young – until, you add another word to it, pain. Say hip pain and a totally different image comes to mind – and it’s not one that brings up images of cafes serving breakfast cereals or beard glitter.

older woman running on the beach

My hip pain started about six months ago. I was on a health kick. I’d lost a lot of weight doing keto and I was ready to lose even more. Raring to go I went into a squat – and then, something went ping!

When I was still in pain a few days later I went to the physio – ‘I’ve got pain in my hip’ I told him. Now I’m no stranger to sports injuries, those who read this blog regularly know I’ve been plagued with knee problems, but simply saying ‘my hip hurts’ felt different – it came with an image I didn’t like. Sensible shoes, walkers and knitting….operations and aches. Physio treatment didn’t work and so off I was dispatched off for an MRI.

20 minutes of loud banging later a pretty picture of my hip was generated along with a big list of things that were wrong with it.

The pinging was me tearing my labrum (a ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip joint – see more here about labral tears), debris from this was causing the sudden pain I got when I moved, but, there was something else – arthritis.

Seriously, if the words ‘hip pain’ had made me feel old – being told you have a moderately arthritic hip will virtually turn you grey in seconds. What it didn’t do though was bother me…

You see while I might not like the word arthritis (I’m not using it, I’m calling it inflammation of the hip), actually having arthritis doesn’t scare me. I’ve written so much on natural ways to reduce arthritis symptoms, this was something I could handle – and frankly, it was a lot less scary than the idea of having surgery to fix my torn labrum.

The doctor agreed with me – in fact, he gave me a list of seven things he backed that could help reduce arthritis pain. And here they are….

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The Seven Natural Approaches My Doctor Suggested to Manage Arthritis Pain

Arthritis hurts because of inflammation caused when the cartilage between joints breaks down so using supplements and other tactics to fight inflammation is the number one way to potentially calm things down.

Selection of spices like turmeric, ginger and chilli that may help reduce arthritis pain. Some are on spoons others in small bowls. It's a vibrant colourful image with lots of reds, oranges and yellows.

Turmeric for Arthritis

This was his number one recommendation as of all the natural remedies for arthritis pain it has the biggest body of evidence for its anti-inflammatory properties – thought to be caused by an ingredient in turmeric called curcumin.

In fact, one study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, found a dose of 500mg of curcumin three times a day reduced pain and increased mobility (but not feelings of stiffness).

A second study mentioned in this review of all the evidence for all the health benefits of turmeric found people also taking 1500mg of curcumin daily for four weeks had the same level of reduction in pain as those taking 1200mg a day of ibuprofen – and while the painkiller comes with potential side effects, that’s not believed to be the case with turmeric. And these were people who classed their arthritis pain as over five on a scale of one to ten.

You can use turmeric in a couple of different ways…

Turmeric or curcumin supplements: This is what’s used in most trials as it allows you to take a concentrated dose in one go.

I’m a big fan of the Solgar brand of supplements and their curcumin has been formulated to be highly absorbable.

If you do want to try another brand of turmeric or curcumin, make sure it contains at least 500mg per capsule (you ideally need three a day to match the dose in trials) and pick one that also has black pepper in it – it helps your body absorb curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. These all have both in them but check the dose before you buy.

Turmeric tea and lattes: These will provide a lower dose than supplements so might not supply enough if you are using them as your sole resource to fight pain, but they are good for all-round general health and a quick anti-flam top up. This is how I’m using them as I’ve taken turmeric in the past and find it gives me a headache. My favourite is the one by Pukka Herbs.

Fish Oils

These have had some negative publicity recently with regards to their potential heart health benefits but their effects on arthritis are not in question – they were the second way to reduce arthritis pain that my doctor suggested.

Just like turmeric, fish oils also help arthritis by reducing inflammation. Healthy fats in fish oils called omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

There are two types of these omega-3 fats in fish oils – DHA and EPA. And my doctor explained that when it comes to joint health, you should pick a supplement that has a high DHA concentration.

Arthritis Australia also back the use of fish oils for tackling arthritis – they suggest even a relatively small a dose of 450mg total omega-3 a day can help osteoarthritis (larger doses are needed for rheumatoid arthritis which is not caused by wear and tear) – and it will take 2-3 months to start to notice a difference.

There are lots of fish oil brands out there but Blackmores comes highly recommended. If you want to have a look at what else is on offer though, click here.

MSM – or Methylsulfonylmethane

This is the thing that really seems to be helping me.

My doctor didn’t specifically suggest this, in fact, he hadn’t heard of it in relation to arthritis until I mentioned it, but I had been working on an article on MSM a few weeks earlier and I read a lot of studies about its anti-inflammatory effects.

The one I specifically cited for arthritis involved 118 people and found MSM help improve pain and joint swelling compared to placebo.

MSM specifically inhibits how a chemical called NF-kB, which is linked to inflammatory disease, works – it also has effects on other inflammatory chemicals.

Considering I have asthma, allergies and an inflammatory condition of the knee, I decided to start taking it before my diagnosis and noticed a huge difference within about a week.

My hip didn’t ache day to day. In fact, if I didn’t get a sudden ouch when I bent it certain ways I wouldn’t have known I had a problem. A quick google of the evidence meant my doctor gave it his approval.

I’m taking an MSM powder at the dose suggested on the pack which is three four gram teaspoons. You drink it dissolved in water and it’s quite bitter, but I like bitter tastes so it’s not worrying me too much.

Foods To Reduce Arthritis Pain

Again, the whole way you fight the pain of arthritis naturally is tackling the inflammation associated with the condition and you can also do this via the diet you eat.

The foods we eat all have the ability to create an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory reaction in our body and so skewing your diet to be less inflammatory and more anti-inflammatory can help.

Doc, therefore, recommended I start eating more oily fish, more healthy fats in nuts, seeds and avocados, more fruits, more vegetables and less fried food, sugar and booze. When I did drink he suggested red wine.

I’m also adding heaps of anti-inflammatory spices to my meals – as well as turmeric these include chilli and ginger – good thing I like things spicy.

If you like the idea of trying an anti-inflammatory diet, then there are a heap of books out there to help.

Exercise Helps Arthritis

It’s a myth that exercise makes arthritis worse – for starters, it helps reduce inflammation, it also reduces body weight which is very important as the more weight you carry the more pressure you put on arthritic joints.

My hip LOVES exercise – it hurts if I sit still for too long but if I go to the gym it’ll stop almost straight away.

I’m to focus on cardio to get my weight down and butt moves to strengthen my glutes. I also have to walk up and down my lounge for a few minutes a day wearing a resistance band.

There are a few things I can’t do – I must not stretch my hip or force it too far sideways so yoga is out – every cloud has a silver lining, I hate yoga!.

I have to do half squats not full ones and row with my feet turned out to stop pinching the labrum which makes me look a bit like a frog on the machine, but hey, I can row again, a few weeks ago I couldn’t do 10 seconds without pain – I did two and a half minutes yesterday.

Chicken breast served with bright coloured salad and grains

Weight Loss – Urgh

I keep mentioning it as it’s super important. The heavier you are the greater your risk of developing arthritis in the knees or hips. But lose it and symptoms can also disappear

When it comes to arthritis of the knee, for example, every 1lb you lose results in a four-fold reduction in the load you put through the knee and that lowers risk. Lose 11lb and you slash your risk of osteoarthritis in half.

I need to lose 4kg (which is easy, I can do that on The High Fat Diet in 10 days), but I need to really change my lifestyle keep it off. That’s the tough bit – time to make exercise a priority again I think.


This wasn’t on my doctors’ initial suggested list of natural remedies for me, but he did say it has quite a lot of good evidence behind it – and I know at least one rheumatologist in the UK who swears by it.

Rose hips contain a compound called GOPO which prevents the movement of white blood cells reducing inflammation.

If you want to try rosehip make sure the supplement you pick contains GOPO, not all of them do (this one does). It will take 2-3 months to show its full effects.

The Thing Not To Waste Your Money on

Glucosamine and Chondriton – a while back there was a huge buzz about the ability of these two supplements to reduce the pain of arthritis – but, further studies have shown that there is very little evidence to prove they help. In fact, on my doctor’s list of ‘things that help arthritis,’ they were scored through with a big red line.

So what happens to me now?

Since I started all of the above things have got a LOT better – I’m now rarely in any pain during the day – a little bit if I get a bit too carried away at the gym, but my doctor said he would be okay with that as the benefits of exercise outweigh any mild aches.

He’s also suggested a painkiller for me but I’d rather not go there if I don’t have to – ditto surgery. While an operation would fix the tear in my labrum and get rid of the debris that is causing my sudden pains, it would also inflame the hip even further putting me on the fast track to hip replacement – and bearing in mind I’m not even keen on the arthritis word, you can imagine how well that idea went down!

Interestingly, since I wrote this, I’ve stated training with an amazing physio and Pilates teacher (see her in this piece) both of whom actually think that while I might have arthritis, it’s not actually causing me any pain at all -my pain comes from weak muscles in my butt which is why going to the gym makes it so happy. And this is really good news as that means it’s totally fixable.

So should you try the above to treat YOUR arthritis pain?

I can’t tell you that, I’m not a doctor, but someone who is is UK GP Dr Rob Hicks, and he once suggested to me five questions you should ask before trying any natural remedy….

  1. Do I know exactly what I’m treating? ‘No doctor would give you medicine without a correct diagnosis, you shouldn’t take a remedy without one.’
  2. Am I already taking medication for this condition? Never combine an orthodox medicine with a supplement for the same condition without advice.
  3. Is this safe to take with the medicine I’m taking for other conditions? Or with my health profile? Negative reactions can occur. Fish oils, for example, thin the blood so you shouldn’t take them if you’re on other blood thinning medication.
  4.  Does the remedy contain the right dose to do the job? Levels – and varieties – of herbs vary between supplements and if you’re getting the wrong type or too low a dose you’re wasting your money. Products registered with the Traditional Herbal Medicines Registration Scheme will work.
  5. Can I afford it? Good remedies don’t always come cheap – and it takes 6-8 weeks for things to start showing results.

This post contains affiliate links and I get a small commission if you make a purchase. Buying from these links does not involve any extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Advice on this blog does not replace that of a doctor. I am not one.

Cartwheel image: freedigitalphotos.net

Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

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