Ways to Reduce Inflammation From Arthritis

The joint inflammation of arthritis is the chief culprit behind your joint damage, stiffness, swelling, and pain. Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, not just arthritis. It plays a role in heart disease, asthma, and even certain cancers, as well as many pain conditions.

Prescription medications are often used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, but you have a lot of other options to consider, as well, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications, dietary adjustments, and other lifestyle changes.

Read on to learn more about how to reduce inflammation and help improve your arthritis symptoms.

NSAIDs

A Black man massages an arthritic hand.


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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed for inflammation related to arthritis. Though some require a prescription from your doctor, many common NSAIDs are available over the counter. Common NSAIDs include:

  • Advil, Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Aspirin
  • Celebrex (celecoxib)

Other arthritis drugs—such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), corticosteroids, and biologics—also battle inflammation, but they do so by targeting different molecules in the immune system, so they don't work the same way as NSAIDs.

Certain illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis cause increased inflammation that require prescription therapies in order to control the inflammation. Talk to your doctor about the anti-inflammatory therapy that is appropriate for you.

Acetaminophen, a popular over-the-counter pain reliever in Tylenol and many combination drugs, is not an anti-inflammatory drug.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are strong anti-inflammatory steroids, and are similar to cortisol, which is made by the adrenal gland. Cortisol plays a large role in how our body manages inflammation. They are fast-acting, and are sometimes prescribed for short-term relief until other drugs begin to take effect.

If your doctor prescribes corticosteroids, you may be given in the form of a shot, pill, cream, or by infusion (through an IV line). A common way corticosteroids are used to treat arthritis is through an injection directly in the joint that is causing pain (also known as a cortisone shot).

Dietary Supplements

Sometimes, dietary supplements can help improve arthritis inflammation. Sometimes, supplements can interfere with prescription medications, so it's important to talk with your doctor before you start a supplement regimen.

Fish Oil

Research shows that fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid) taken in capsule or liquid form can be beneficial for reducing inflammation. According to The Arthritis Foundation, a therapeutic dosage is taking a fish-oil supplement of up to 2.6 grams containing at least 30% EPA/DHA (the active ingredient in fish oil) twice a day.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Two of the most common supplements used for arthritis, glucosamine and chondroitin are natural compounds found in the cartilage, which cushions bones at our joints. Research studies on the value of glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis are conflicting, however, and experts disagree on whether patients with arthritis should take them. In fact, some studies have shown that they can interact with blood thinners and may cause problems for people with diabetes or kidney disease.

S-adenosyl-methionine

SAM-e, or S-adenosyl-methionine, is a compound that occurs naturally in the body. It works with folate and vitamin B12 to support a number of body processes. Being deficient in folate or B12 can cause you to be short of SAM-e. Some studies have shown SAM-e to be effective in reducing osteoarthritis pain and inflammation.

Vitamin Supplements

Our bodies need certain vitamins and minerals to stay healthy overall. Vitamins D and K are linked to healthy cartilage and bone. If you're deficient in vitamins D or K, it may be helpful to supplement. Other antioxidant vitamins—including vitamins A, C and E, may also be beneficial.

Ginger and turmeric are other supplements that are recognized for having anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet is highly recommended for people trying to control inflammation or for those who just want to eat as healthy as possible. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on cutting your intake of saturated fats and trans fats while increasing your intake of foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid.

What to Avoid

Omega-6 fatty acids play a role in the health of our brain and bones, and help regulate our metabolism. In high quantities, though, they can increase our body's production of inflammatory chemicals. Limit your intake of meat, dairy products, vegetable oils (and margarine) and peanuts to balance omega-6 fatty acids in your body. Refined carbohydrates and sugars, along with many processed foods, may also increase inflammatory chemicals and make your arthritis inflammation worse.

What to Eat

Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, however, are good for you. Foods that are high in these substances can help you lower inflammation.

The Mediterranean diet is considered a good example of an anti-inflammatory diet, and is based on the consumption of:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Fish and seafood at least twice per week
  • Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation
  • Sweets and red meats only on rare, special occasions

When it comes to beverages, green tea is a good choice. Research shows that it has anti-inflammatory properties.​

Cannabis

In recent years, interest has increased in the use of cannabis products (cannabinoids) to treat arthritis. The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes has grown in recent years, particularly in the treatment of chronic pain conditions such as arthritis.

The two main active substances in cannabis plants are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive chemical that causes the "high" feeling) and cannabidiol (CBD). The primary difference between medical and recreational cannabis is the amount of these chemicals. Medical cannabis has low levels of THC and higher levels of CBD. Both have been shown to improve pain symptoms.

Cannabis can taken in capsules, in drops under the tongue, or smoked. Edibles—such as baked goods or oil-infused gummies—are another way to use cannabis.

Under federal law, cannabinoids cannot legally be prescribed, possessed, or sold. However, every U.S. state has different regulations regarding the use of medical marijuana and CBD oil, so be sure to understand which laws apply to you.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight can drive up your inflammation. Where body fat is distributed can contribute, as well. For instance, a large waist circumference (35 inches for women and 40 inches for men) is typically associated with excess inflammation.

Researchers recognize that there is a connection between inflammation and obesity, although more needs to be learned. At the very least, talk to your doctor to determine the ideal body mass index (BMI) for your frame, and work toward that goal.

You don't need to lose a lot of weight to improve inflammation. Reducing your weight by between 5% and 10% significantly lowers your level of inflammation, according to Nadia B. Pietrzykowska, M.D. in an article published by the Obesity Action Coalition.

Exercise

Exercise may be another good option. Experts recommend 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days a week to reduce inflammation.

Many people with arthritis steer clear of regular exercise, as they feel exercise makes arthritis worse. However, though caution may be warranted, remember that doing something is better than doing nothing. Start slowly, at whatever pace you consider doable, and then build on that.

Stop Smoking

Smoking tobacco has numerous effects on your health, and studies show that includes higher levels of inflammatory markers. If you are currently a smoker, try to use the idea of less inflammation and pain as motivation to quit.

Reduce Stress

Stress has been linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body. A 2017 study found that acute stress raised levels of numerous inflammatory markers. Therefore, practicing stress-relieving techniques may help to reduce inflammation.

Get Enough Sleep

Inadequate sleep has been associated with increased inflammatory markers. In a review of studies on inflammation and sleep, researchers concluded that sleep disturbance and long sleep duration are linked to increases in systemic inflammation.

When trying to determine how much sleep is adequate, remember that it is not precisely the same for everyone. According to researchers for the National Sleep Foundation, adults generally need between seven and nine hours per night, but that can vary from one person to the next.

The key is to determine how much sleep you require to feel well. Then, be aware of how much sleep you are getting on a regular basis. A healthy sleep pattern can help reduce inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes arthritis inflammation?

The immune system plays a key role in inflammatory arthritis. When the immune system isn't working properly, it releases inflammatory chemicals that can attack joint tissues. This in turn causes your arthritis symptoms, such as increased joint fluid, swelling, and bone and muscle damage.

How can you reduce arthritis inflammation naturally?

While there are a number of treatments available from your doctor to treat your arthritis inflammation, some key steps you can take without medications. These include losing weight, eating anti-inflammatory foods, and even certain nutritional supplements that can help.

What types of diet can help reduce inflammation from arthritis?

A diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the body, including inflammation caused by arthritis.

A Word From Verywell

Inflammation plays a role in multiple diseases, including arthritis. Taking steps to reduce inflammation in your body—such as making changes to your diet, losing weight, or certain medications—can be helpful in alleviating your arthritis symptoms.

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