Best Ways to Reduce Arthritis Inflammation in Joints

Using Medication and Natural Solutions

Joint inflammation is the chief culprit behind arthritis joint damage, stiffness, swelling, and pain. Reducing inflammation from arthritis can help to relieve symptoms. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it commonly impacts fingers, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and feet.

Arthritis is commonly treated with prescription medications, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, topical treatments, dietary adjustments, and other lifestyle changes.

This article discusses how to reduce joint inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, including types of medications that can help, diet to reduce inflammation, and natural remedies for arthritis pain.


A Black man massages an arthritic hand.

katleho Seisa / Getty Images

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly the first pain relievers used for inflammation related to arthritis. Though some require a prescription from a healthcare provider, many common NSAIDs are available over the counter. Common NSAIDs include:

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

Certain illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis cause increased inflammation that requires stronger prescription therapies. These 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.

Talk to a healthcare provider about which anti-inflammatory therapy 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 are strong anti-inflammatory medications that are similar to cortisol, a hormone is made by the adrenal gland. Cortisol plays a large role in how the body naturally manages inflammation. Corticosteroids are fast-acting and are sometimes prescribed for short-term relief until other drugs begin to take effect.

If a healthcare provider prescribes corticosteroids, you might receive them 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

In some cases, dietary supplements can help reduce arthritis inflammation naturally. But some supplements can interfere with prescription medications, so it's important to talk with a healthcare provider before you start any supplement regimen.

Fish Oil

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

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Two of the most common supplements used for arthritis, glucosamine, and chondroitin are natural compounds found in cartilage, a tissue that cushions bones in 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.

Some studies have shown that they can interact with blood thinners and may cause problems for people with diabetes or kidney disease.


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, might also be beneficial.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet is often recommended for people trying to control inflammation naturally or for those who just want to eat as healthily 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 nutrients like antioxidants and healthy fats.

What to Avoid

Omega-6 fatty acids play a role in the health of our brain and bones, and help regulate our metabolism. In excess quantities, though, they can increase our body's production of inflammatory chemicals.

Limit your intake of meat, dairy products, and vegetable oils (and margarine) 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.​


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). Both have been shown to improve pain symptoms. The primary difference between medical and recreational cannabis is the amount of these chemicals.

Some studies have found cannabis with under 10% THC to be more effective for treating pain than cannabis with THC levels over 15%. However, medical cannabis can often have THC levels higher than 15%, similar to levels found in recreational cannabis. Various forms of CBD supplements are also available that contain no THC.

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 people assigned female at birth and 40 inches for those assigned male at birth) is typically associated with excess inflammation.

Researchers recognize a connection between inflammation and obesity, although more needs to be learned. At the very least, talk to a healthcare provider about working towards a goal of consistent exercise.

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. Even if no weight is lost, an abundance of evidence suggests consistent exercise improves health significantly.


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 their 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 damaging effects on your health, and studies show that these include higher levels of inflammatory markers. If you are currently a smoker, try to use the idea of having 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 individual needs can vary.

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.

A Word From Verywell

Inflammation plays a role in multiple diseases, including arthritis. Taking steps to reduce inflammation in your body—such as changing your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising consistently, or certain medications—can help alleviate your arthritis symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I reduce inflammation in my joints fast?

    It depends on the degree of severity. Minor inflammation often responds well to cold compresses and OTC pain relievers. More severe inflammation may require treatment with corticosteroids taken orally or injected into the joint.

  • What causes arthritis joint 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 a healthcare provider can prescribe a number of treatments to treat your arthritis inflammation, there are some key steps you can take without medication. These include losing weight, eating anti-inflammatory foods, getting restorative sleep, and even taking certain nutritional supplements.

  • 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.

    In particular, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce systemic inflammation, which can also ease arthritis symptoms.

  • What triggers inflammation in joints?

    A flare-up of joint inflammation in arthritis can be caused by:

    • Overuse, repetitive motions, or overdoing exercise
    • Stress, illness, or infection 
    • Eating inflammatory foods or weight gain
    • Changes in the weather and barometric pressure
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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer covering arthritis and chronic illness, who herself has been diagnosed with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.