Since my diagnosis this year with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I have received so many emails from readers who have suspected they were struggling with the same disorder (or their family members are) and asking how I am managing my pain. In the beginning, I was on a variety of medications for my joint pain from anti-inflammatory medications to steroids to even anti-epileptic medications to help control the pain. I am now (mostly) pain medication free, but it took meeting with an incredible specialist and doing my own experimentations on what worked best for my body to finally kick my prescription habit.
Joint pain, of course, isn’t limited to just EDS. So many people I know have a variety of issues like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, or fibromyalgia that cause joint pain for them as well. Chronic pain, with any condition, makes doing routine tasks difficult. It is frustrating when doing simple routine tasks cause pain and it is more frustrating when that pain is invisible to others.
You might look like a million bucks, but internally you are somewhere curled up in a fetal position just trying to get through your day.
It’s a frustrating feeling.
I am sure I will be updating this post as I find new things that work for me so be sure to bookmark this post for more ideas! In full disclosure, I am not a doctor and have no medical background. What works for me is not guaranteed to work for you. These suggestions are ones that should be reviewed with a trusted physician!
Please also note, I have purchased ALL OF THESE THINGS WITH MY OWN MONEY. I know that people often feel mislead by bloggers about false claims on products. I can tell you that everything I promote on my site is always legit, but I can also tell you that no one has paid to be in this spot or is giving me a freebie so I will write about it. Just ask my husband about the bank alerts when I start buying this stuff… 😉
There are four things that I have found that really help my joint pain- Warmth, Good Sleep, Supplements, & Gentle Stretching. If any of these categories are off (even just a tad), I am usually in a lot of pain by the end of the day.
Here are 11 products that I have found help me in each of these categories.
11 Ways to Naturally Relieve Joint Pain
Not only do I have EDS, but I also have a disease called Raynaud’s that causes my fingers and toes to be cold, losing feeling, and change colors. For me, one of my best defenses against Raynaud’s and my joint pain is to stay warm. A simple thing like an extra sweater layer, warm socks, warm slippers, and even having my little fireplace going in the summer all help my joints so much.
When I spoke with my doctor about what I could do to help my Raynaud’s he suggested UGGS in the summer.
Basically, bundle up.
Stiff joints, for me, require the same kind of bundling. Winter is my worst enemy and I am dreading the cold days that are coming in Indiana. Luckily, I have found a few things that help warm my joints and relieve some of my pain.
Here are a few products that I use to help in this category:
A Heated Throw
With all these weird joint issues I have going on, I am absolutely miserable in the mornings and I am also cold all the time. I treated myself to a Sunbeam Sherpa Electric Throw and it has been such a game-changer for me throughout the day. It has three settings and the Low setting is warm without getting hot and the sherpa interior and velvety exterior make it a treat to snuggle with. The sizing is perfect for two or one really cold woman who wraps herself like a burrito in it.
If you struggle with joint pain in the morning, having one of these to plug in while you have a cup of coffee is a great way to warm up those joints for your day. I even plop it on my lap while I am working on the computer so I can keep the warmth in my toes. Although this is a pricier investment, it has been my go-to on my bad days with my joints.
Epsom Salt Baths (in Bulk!)
One thing I also started doing in the mornings (post workouts or on those mornings that I can’t seem to get my joints moving) is indulging in an epsom salt soak to help with my joint pain. Going to the store to stock up on salts every week got a little ridiculous so I was excited to discover that I could get almost 20 pounds in bulk on Amazon and have it shipped right to my door (thanks, Prime!)
The scented soaks are my favorite so I soak in these with a few drops of this lavender oil. Thank God for that epic bath tray so I can make the most of my bath with a good book.
In a 2004 study, conducted by the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham, researchers concluded that prolonged soaking in an Epsom salt bath raises magnesium levels without any adverse effects. The ideal concentration for using Epsom salt baths to raise magnesium status, according to the study, is approximately 500 grams, or 2 cups, of Epsom salt dissolved in 15 gallons of water — the amount that can fit in a standard-sized bathtub. The ideal amount of time spent soaking is 12 minutes, two to three times per week.” (source)
Although I will share this in the supplements section later, epsom salts are a fantastic way to get in a dose of magnesium and magnesium is a great thing for joint pain. I am a bit of a mag addict these days.
Did you know that most people are deficient in this?
You can read more about why magnesium is such an important and vital nutrient, even if you don’t suffer from joint pain.
Fingerless Arthritis Gloves
Although not fashionable, I discovered fingerless arthritis gloves are a GREAT way to improve the circulation in my fingers and to reduce joint pain, particularly when I am working. The mild compression in each glove helps to relieve stiffness in your hands and can be extremely beneficial if you work at a desk job like I do.
Not only are these fantastic indoors, but they are also wonderful to be worn outdoors too underneath your usual layers. My son has Raynaud’s too and he wears these as a layer underneath his gloves to help keep his fingers warm. It is incredible how much relief they can bring and they are an easy thing to slip on while doing routine tasks thanks to their fingerless design.
Deep Blue Rub
I am one of those people that is a disbeliever when it comes to the oils craze (don’t throw rotten tomatoes please!). That is to say that I am NOT a distributor and also don’t always believe in the claims that are made about these. Several friends recommended trying this cream and even shared tubes with me when I was first diagnosed.
This Deep Blue Rub cream is magic and has helped a lot with providing a little pain relief. It also happens to smell way better than the heavy-duty stuff I had been using that made my eyes water!
I am putting this under the Warmth category because it begins with a cool tingle and then offers a comforting warmth when the coolness wears off.
Keep in mind, it’s pricier than the stuff at the drugstore, but I’m finding just a little goes a long way. I wish it never wore off, but the moments of relief it provides have helped me a lot, particularly in the evenings! They do offer smaller packages for purchase that can help you decide if this is a good pain relieving option or not!
Sleep with joint pain has felt almost impossible this year. I have never struggled with insomnia until I started experiencing pain like this. I can tell you that few things help my joints more than a good night’s rest though. If I have a miserable night of sleep, it makes for a very difficult day for me (and for my family!).
Here are a couple of things that I have found improve my sleep and reduce my joint pain:
A Body Pillow
I started getting massages for all of my joint issues (another great natural pain reliever, if you can afford it!) and the massage therapist offered some suggestions for better sleeping including hugging a pillow between my arms and legs. I thought a body pillow might be the way to go instead of wrestling with little pillows and found this inexpensive body pillow at Target (less than $10!). The best part is that they have all these gorgeous covers that can coordinate with your bedding and I found this furry one in gray (again, less than $10!!) that make it an incredible joy to curl up with it!
I should note, I do couple this body pillow with a proper pillow for my head. Many, many years ago I got a Tempur-Pedic pillow that ended up saving me hundreds of dollars visiting a chiropractor. I couldn’t believe how much this pillow cost, but we often remark that these pillows are one of our most valued possessions. You know, the kind you would grab if there was a fire. It’s right up there with precious pictures.
If you can’t swing one of those though, give this inexpensive body pillow option a try and see if it helps!
Sleepytime EXTRA Tea
When I was struggling with some stomach issues, the dietician I saw suggested making the switch over to tea to help calm stomach (instead of that red wine habit- ahem!). I have difficulty unwinding in the evenings and still needed something that would help me with that. I had been taking melatonin, but seeing this piece on it kind of freaked me out about that.
I found this Sleepytime Extra Tea and I don’t know what voodoo is in this stuff, but it makes me feel sleepy and relaxed at night. I actually do know what voodoo it is… it is valerian and it seems to work like a charm for me. I sleep good and I have no problems getting up and around in the morning. This has replaced my melatonin hangover and I have been really happy about this little life switch.
I add a splash of almond milk and honey to it for an evening treat with my book. It was also a treat, after discovering it and becoming a genuine fan, to get to head to the headquarters and see where this tea was made and learn more about their company.
Sometimes Sleepytime Tea just doesn’t cut out and so I tried a variety of different natural sleep aids to help me get some zzz’s so my joints would feel better. Of the things I have tried, DRIFTOFF is the one that has brought me the most success recently. It does contain melatonin, but only 2 mg (within the range of appropriate dosage according to the experts). This sleep aid combines the powers of valerian root with the powers of melatonin to help you sleep better and more soundly.
This has really helped me a lot and I’m considering trying their product for anxiety relief too because I have had such good success with this one.
Hey, there anxiety! You sure cause me a lot of sleepless nights.
Several of my friends had been telling me about Natural Calm and the benefits of magnesium on the body even before my joint issues had started. I knew how good I felt after soaking in epsom salts (see above), but the advice to take magnesium orally went in one ear and out the other.
When I went to pick up my supplement though, the girl waiting on me said, “PLEASE try this! It has changed my life.” She pointed to a bottle on the shelf and I actually listened this time.
It was the same bottle of stuff that my friends had been raving about. If you read the reviews you can get a better picture of how much it helps people.
It is unreal the difference in my mood and calmness levels. For me, the difference was noticeable immediately. My hardest day of the week is Tuesday. It’s the day ALL THE THINGS must happen and I am a disaster by the end of the day.
I took it in the afternoon and my husband came home and was like, “How did it go today?”
And I’m all like…”It’s cool.”
And he’s like, “No, really. Isn’t this THE HARDEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE?”
And I’m like, “Nah, man, it’s cool.”
In short, he nicknamed me Matthew McConaughey cause I’m all like, “Alright, alright, alright,” around house. Not high strung. Not crying because I can’t do ALL THE THINGS for ALL THE PEOPLE. And I’m sleeping better (a huge bonus on the joints).
Do your own research, start small (or you will have the runs- trust me!) and don’t take more than what is recommended. I take a small amount in the afternoon before my children come home when they ask for ALL THE THINGS and a small amount if I am worried I will have trouble sleeping at night. I took it once in the morning and it knocked me out and I slept all day so I don’t recommend it if you want to have a productive morning. If you want to have the most glorious day of day sleeping though, it was quite lovely. Of course, it reacts differently in everyone. For me, it makes me feel like I had a little glass of wine or a great bath.
Since I have EDS, one of my main defenses against joint pain is supplements. The other (although I am not getting into it here) is eating gluten-free to reduce the inflammation in my joints. Both are a pain in the patootie, to be honest. I miss eating real pizza and I hate taking pills.
I’m not going to dive into my supplements, but if you have EDS too, Dr. Collins has a great guide on eating and supplementation.
There are a couple of things that I would recommend though (from my personal experience) that are helping.
A Big Guns Pill Organizer
Three people in our family are following the supplement guidelines recommended by our doctor to help with our joints and that means A LOT OF FREAKING PILLS. I was getting really overwhelmed getting everything organized and the volume we need to take don’t fit in a traditional organizer. I got one of these large pill box organizers for sorting and I love it. Each of us has our initials on the outside, I do all the sorting once a week, and then each person pulls out the drawer for the day and takes their pills.
This one offers an AM & a PM side on each day. It has helped me stay on track with the supplement routine and I credit the regime with bringing a ton of joint pain relief.
I would also say, getting these supplements set up on Prime Pantry has helped a ton with keeping us stocked each week. There are two things that arrive on my doorstep regularly through Prime Pantry– supplements and my hair color, friends. It’s WILD over here!
Can you tell that I’m obsessed with magnesium? Magnesium oil was a recommendation from the specialist I saw and has been the latest discovery for me to help relieve my joint pain. The one that I use is this one from artnaturals (you can definitely explore other options though- I went by reviews!)
This stuff is amazing! It works INCREDIBLY well for joint pain, but it also says that it helps a ton for people with migraines too. I don’t suffer from migraines, but I know many of you do and wanted to mention that.
There is 100 mg elemental magnesium per 1 ml (approximately 8 sprays) in this oil. Since I was recommended to double my current magnesium intake, this is helping me achieve that without taking more supplements.
I spray it on all my achy joints and it has helped me to skip my pain medications this week because it helps so much! If you have migraines, you just spray your temples to help with your pain management, usually easing pain within just a couple of hours. It has helped so much I actually stopped taking my second dose of pain relievers without a great deal of discomfort in the evening.
It does leave a bit of a residue, but not too bad for this white, white woman. I’ve also found it stings a bit so not a good thing to spray shortly after shaving! I’m planning to mix up a lotion she recommended soon (I’ll share that recipe later!), but in the meantime this is an effortless way to increase my magnesium.
This cardio queen has had to make a lot of changes to her exercise routines. The advice I was given was to do what I had been doing, unless it was causing me pain. I knew, in my heart, pounding on my joints actually was doing more harm than good. I switched to a yoga routine (never taking things too far!!) and it has been one of the best things for my body. If you are local, this studio and their instructors have brought a lot of joint pain relief to my life. If you are not a local, check Groupon to see if you can score a few classes on a budget.
If I could make any recommendations, it would be to consider getting a thicker yoga mat to protect your achy joints. I bought an expensive one and I wouldn’t say paying a ton more was worth it. You can even find good quality thick mats at places like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. I also found this affordable option that should help protect your knees while working out. If you are determined to keep to a thin mat though (it really does help with balance), I love this knee pad offering that would be perfectly portable for protecting your knees.
I also advise keeping warm especially until your joints warm up. I use thredUP (new customers can get a $10 credit using that link) for layering my workout apparel (they carry a lot of those pricier activewear options) and I found that the yoga socks on Amazon work just as good as the pricier yoga socks that were being sold at my studio.
A gentle stretch always helps me feel better and has been a great way to avoid relying on prescription medication.
PHEW!! I think that is it for now. I REALLY and TRULY hope this helps someone else with their joint pain. So much of this is your own trial and error and I hope someone else trying a few things out (and spending a gazillion dollars on stuff that didn’t work!) will help you in your journey towards joint pain relief.
If you have any of your own suggestions or questions, I’m happy to answer them! I hope I can pay forward all that I have learned from so many! xo
*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Pinky promise!