Medication is a useful—and efficient—way to relieve your arthritis pain. But it has its downsides: expense, side effects and interactions, possible dependency, and more. Plus, it can be depressing to think that you have to take your medications in order to feel OK.

Stretching and strengthening your joints affected by arthritis can help decrease pain and increase flexibility. See Knee Strengthening Exercises

These natural pain relievers may offer you a break from the reliance on pain medication. While each method won't work for each person, they are safe and easy to try.

1. Get moving to release endorphins.

The body produces endorphins to relieve pain, and they can rival the pain relief brought on by medications. They block pain signals before they reach your brain, and can also help alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression.

See Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis

How do you tap into these natural pain-killers? Any activity that increases your heart rate for a sustained period will trigger the release of endorphins.

See Exercising with Arthritis


2. Have a piece of chocolate.

Some studies have shown that eating sweets like cookies, chocolate, or ice cream dulls the sensation of pain. For some added relief, bake your own cookies: Sweet and pleasant scents have been shown to reduce the perception of pain.

3. Warm up aching joints.

Applying heat to the joints causing pain can go a long way toward easing your discomfort. It increases blood flow to the site and suppresses pain signals to the brain.

See When and Why to Apply Heat to an Arthritic Joint

Use a hot water bottle, gel-filled pad heated in the microwave, electric heating pad, or hot bath to deliver heat therapy. Or try a heat wrap like Thermacare, which can provide heat for several hours while you go about your day.

Watch: Video: How to Make a Moist Heat Pack

4. Or cool joints down.

Regardless of your type of arthritis, it can cause inflammation in your joints. Ice is an excellent way to reduce inflammation. It also slows nerve impulses, which can interrupt the pain signals.

See 3 Types of Cold Packs for Arthritis

Homemade ice packs can help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. Watch Video: How to Make 5 Quick and Easy Ice Packs

5. Cultivate relationships.

People with chronic pain who interact with others dealing with similar pain find that their condition becomes more manageable. You can find these interactions through local support groups or online, where many communities exist to offer support and advice for those living with painful conditions. Visit the Arthritis-health forums to find advice and support from others with chronic pain.

6. Stretch.

Your body is designed for movement. If you're not moving much because you're in pain, this inactivity can make your pain worse. Work on gentle stretches that can help maintain your mobility and range of motion—and keep pain at bay. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you find stretches and exercises that are appropriate for your unique situation.

See Knee Stretches and Shoulder Stretches

7. Get some sun.

Just 10 minutes of sun exposure each day can help your body produce vitamin D. A study of 200 people with knee osteoarthritis found that those who got the recommended daily 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D experienced less pain than those who didn't. Researchers believe that vitamin D helps relieve pain by helping in the absorption of calcium, which is critical to bone growth and repair.

See Turmeric, Vitamin D, and Coenzyme Q10 for Fibromyalgia

Sleeplessness caused by chronic pain is treatable, so talk with your physician. See Coping with Chronic Pain and Insomnia

8. Practice good sleep habits.

Getting enough sleep is important to managing pain and promoting healing, so practice good habits to help you get a healthy amount of sleep. These include making your bedroom quiet and dark, banning electronics from the bedroom, and establishing a regular schedule for going to bed and getting up.

See Therapies for Treating Insomnia

9. Meditate.

Meditation can be as simple or as complex as you'd like. One simple method: Choose a sound that is pleasing to you but has no particular meaning, close your eyes, sit or lie somewhere comfortable, and repeat the sound in your mind. Start with a few minutes of meditation per session, and gradually lengthen to thirty minutes.

You can also try guided meditation, which involves a source giving you suggestions to guide your meditative thoughts. You can start by attending a class or finding resources like DVDs or online videos.

10. Try acupuncture.

It's still not well understood how this ancient Chinese healing technique functions, but it has been shown in studies to reduce certain types of chronic pain.

See Acupuncture and Reiki Healing for Arthritis

You can find a certified acupuncturist by visiting National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

11. Enjoy a massage.

Therapeutic massage relaxes muscles and gets the blood flowing, which helps heal the body. It also releases endorphins, which are powerful pain relieving substances in the body.

See Manual Therapies for Arthritis Pain

Visit National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork to find a board-certified massage therapist in your area.

Learn more:

Tai Chi and Yoga for Arthritis

How to Understand Chronic Pain vs. Acute Pain