Simple Ways to Ease Osteoarthritis Pain

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on December 05, 2019

Medications aren’t the only way to treat osteoarthritis (OA) pain. You may not even need them.

You can do many things on your own to ease joint aches and stiffness. Simple steps like exercises, home pain-relief remedies, and simple lifestyle changes can help you feel much better with OA.

Get Up and Move

You may think you need to stay on the couch and rest your aching joints. But regular exercise makes OA symptoms feel better. It loosens up your joints. It strengthens your muscles that support your joints. It helps prevent falls from poor balance.

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So get some exercise every day if you can. Start with simple activities like a walk with your dog or a friend. Join a water exercise, yoga, or tai chi class. Hop on a stationary bike in your living room.

If you’re just starting a workout routine, talk to your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist first. They can help you get going at a pace that you can handle and include the right kinds of moves, like:

  • Exercises to build stronger muscles that support your joints
  • Activities that get your heart pumping
  • Stretches that improve your joint range of motion

Try Heat or Cold

If your OA is in one or two joints, apply heat or cold to ease the pain. Hot or cold packs are simple to make, don’t cost very much, and can offer quick pain relief.

Gentle Yoga Poses for OA Joint PainDownward dogs and triangle poses can loosen up your joints and calm OA pain. 116


SPEAKER: Gentle yoga can help

fight your osteoarthritis pain,

but start slow,

flowing from one pose

to the next.

Even small, simple movement

can help your joints.

You can start at home in a chair

with your hands and wrists.

Roll your wrists slowly

in one direction and then

the next.

Then extend your hands,

and pull back your fingers.

We hold a lot of stress and pain

in our neck and shoulders.

Try moving your neck to one

side, then the other,

while gently pulling

with your hand.

Then try some slow, full circles

with your neck

in each direction.

Still on the chair, hold a strap

between your arms.

Hold your arms above your head,

and bend your torso to one side

and the other.


Then put your arms down,

and straighten your legs out,

one leg at a time.

You can also try a hip opener

by crossing your ankle

over your knee

and leaning slowly forward.

If you're still feeling up

to it, stand up, and try

a modified classic yoga move,

triangle pose, with the chair

as support.

Just try it for a few seconds.

Don't worry if you're not there


Another yoga move that can be

modified with a chair,

downward dog.

Stand a bit away from a chair,

hold onto the seat or the back

of the chair, and lean over

from your waist with your legs


And breathe.

When you're done, take a minute

or two to just be still

and feel the feel.

Lie on your bed with a laundry

basket under your legs,

or on the floor with your lower

legs on a chair.

These are simple at-home moves,

but many yoga instructors offer

classes just for osteoarthritis.

You can also look for a yoga app

that offers variations

on different moves.


National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "5 Things You Should Know About Yoga," "Yoga: In Depth."<br>PubMed Central: "Yoga for Arthritis: A Scoping Review."<br> "Combating Arthritis the Yoga Way."<br>Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Yoga for Arthritis."<br>Arthritis Foundation: "Yoga Benefits for Arthritis."/delivery/81/59/81593158-ae45-4720-ae30-ef4a6f670890/vd-2392-yoga-moves-osteoarthritis_,4500k,400k,2500k,1000k,750k,.mp401/31/2018 10:28:00650350yoga class/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/yoga_poses_for_osteoarthritis_pain_video/650x350_yoga_poses_for_osteoarthritis_pain_video.jpg091e9c5e818eeb56

When to use heat: When your joint is stiff, a bit achy, or just worn out after a lot of activity. You can also use it to loosen stiff joints before you exercise or go to work.

When to use cold: When your joint is more painful or mildly swollen.

Easy heat treatments include a moist heating pad you can buy at your drugstore, a warm shower or bath, or a soak in a jetted bathtub. To soothe an achy hand or foot, dip it in a hot paraffin wax treatment (look for them at the drugstore). Or warm up a wet washcloth for a few seconds in the microwave and wrap it around your sore joint. Just be careful not to place anything too hot directly on your skin -- protect it with a towel or cloth.

For quick cold relief, place a bag of frozen veggies or crushed ice in a soft towel, then place it on your sore joint for up to 20 minutes. You can also buy gel packs that you store in the freezer and take out when pain flares up in a joint.

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Slip Into New Shoes

The right footwear can ease OA pain because it eases pressure on your joints. Choose shoes that have lower heels and a supportive fit. You should feel stable when you walk.

Make sure you’re wearing the correct shoe size. There should be about 3/4 inch between your longest toe and the shoe’s front. When you walk, your shoe shouldn’t move up and down the back of your heel or slip off.

If you have bony bumps on your toes from OA, you may need roomier shoes. Check out styles that fasten with Velcro. They’re easier to put on and take off.

Grab Your Walking Stick

Over time, OA can make your joints weak or unstable. It’s easy to slip and fall. You may need a little extra support to get around. A walking stick or cane can help.

These tools also take pressure off knees, hips, ankles, and feet with OA. They help you feel less pain when you go up and down stairs, get out of a car, or get up from a deep chair.

Try a brace or sleeve to support sore, weak joints like a knee, wrist, ankle, or elbow. You can buy them at the drugstore, or ask your physical therapist to fit you with one.

Mind-Body Relief

Stress and anxiety often make OA pain worse. Try soothing mind-body therapies to relax tight, sore muscles, calm your mood, and ease those aches.