It’s in the joint

Arthritis can’t be cured, but it can be managed with a combination of treatment, lifestyle changes and patience.

Work with your doctor

Before your doctor appointments, know where the pain is, when it’s worse and what you struggle doing the  most. Having this information will help your doctor understand the symptoms and rule out any other issues that could be causing the problem.  

Use heat therapy

Heat loosens up stiff joints and muscles, stimulates circulation, and reduces muscle spasms. Try heat pads, heat-activated patches and pain relief cream, but protect your skin from direct contact with heat packs by keeping a thin towel between the skin and heat. You can also make a DIY heat pack by microwaving a wet towel for 1-2 minutes. Put the hot towel in a plastic bag and wrap that with a dry towel to protect your skin.  

Use cold therapy

If heat isn’t working, try cold therapy. There are a variety of packs and patches available for knees, wrists and other body parts. Cold packs may be uncomfortable at first, but they can numb pain. Rubbing ice cubes or a small bag of frozen peas over painful areas also reduces swelling and inflammation Use a towel to prevent your skin from directly touching the cold pack and take breaks after 10-15 minutes (or sooner for fragile skin) so your skin doesn’t get too cold.  

Combine hot and cold therapy

Some people get the most arthritis pain relief using both hot and cold remedies. Heat therapy sometimes works best earlier in the day because it relaxes the muscles around the joints. Cold therapy is good at the end of the day as it minimises inflammation from the day.  

Move around and exercise regularly

Many older adults with arthritis don’t want to move because it hurts, but arthritis pain gets  worse if you stay in the same position for too long. It may be painful to get started, but you need to move, flex, and use the joints that hurt. It’s also important to get up and move around at least once an hour. Even walking slowly around the kitchen counts as a good joint workout.  


Gently rubbing your painful joints helps them warm up and relax. If gentle massage is sore, warm the area first by using a heat pack or having a hot bath. Lotions and oils help too.

Maintain a healthy weight

Did you know that losing half a kilogram can take nearly 2kgs of pressure off your knees? If you’re overweight, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss a healthier diet and exercise plan that will suit your lifestyle.  

Add omega-3s to your diet

Eat fish rich in omega-3s like salmon, sardines, herring and tuna. Consider taking omega-3 supplements or collagen to reduce your inflammation levels, but chat to your GP first.

Visit  the South African Rheumatism and Arthritis Association ( for more information or email

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