Gout can strike at any time, anywhere. It can wake you up in the middle of the night, making the bed sheets feel more like a blanket of knives. It causes pain, redness and swelling of the joints and when an episode strikes, it may be best to take matters into your own hands. The next time a gout flare-up occurs, try some of these home remedies to relieve the pain.
Remedies From The Pantry
Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the joints. When too much uric acid is present in the blood, it will crystallize and collect in the joints, causing pain, inflammation and redness in the affected area. But how does excess uric acid build up in the first place?
Uric acid is a by-product of purines, a substance found in many foods including meats, seafood and even some vegetables. While avoiding these foods can help to prevent gout flare-ups, some preliminary research has shown that some fruits may also be able to ease the symptoms of gout. Although more research is needed, it certainly can’t hurt to incorporate these fruits into your diet during a flare-up:
- Cherries – Some studies have linked cherries with lower uric acid levels in the blood, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that cherries can help prevent gout pain. However, the antioxidants in cherries and other dark-colored fruits such as blackberries, blueberries and raspberries can remove toxins in the body, making them a good supplement to gout treatment.
- Citrus fruits – Vitamin C may also lower levels of uric acid in the blood, however, high levels of it can actually increase uric acid production. So before you eat a basketful of oranges, find out what the proper dosage of vitamin C is from your doctor.
- Apples – Apple preserves in particular can neutralize uric acid in the body. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make some by simmering sliced and peeled apples for about three hours.
Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have been linked to lower uric acid levels as well, so you may want to have an extra cup in the morning to relieve gout pain. If you prefer tea, steep some thyme, which can remove uric acid crystals from the joints, in boiling water.
(For a list of foods to avoid with gout, read List Of Gout Foods To Avoid.)
Oftentimes, a little bit of spice can go a long way in reducing the symptoms of gout. But you don’t need to ingest it in order for it to work. You can also try these old-fashioned plasters made from spices and water:
- Mustard plaster – Mix one tablespoon of mustard powder or crushed mustard seeds with one tablespoon of wheat flour and a little bit of water to make a paste. Apply some petroleum jelly on the affected area first, then rub in the mustard plaster. Cover the area with gauze and leave it on for several hours or overnight.
- Chicory poultice – Mix an ounce of chicory root with a pint of boiling water and apply it to the affected area. You can also drink the mixture as is or mix it with coffee.
Don’t Put Weight On The Joint
Gout can develop in any joint in the wrists, fingers, elbows, knees and ankles. When a flare-up does occur, it’s important to keep all pressure off the joint so as not to make the pain worse. That means staying off your feet if the pain is in your legs or toes and not leaning on or lifting anything heavy if the pain is in your arms or fingers. During a gout flare-up, which can last anywhere between 3 and 10 days, be sure to take these precautions:
- Keep the joint elevated – Slowing blood flow to the affected area will help to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Don’t use heat or ice – When people are in pain, they usually reach for a heating pad or an ice pack in the hopes that it will relax their muscles and reduce inflammation. While this can work for some conditions, it does not work for gout. Heat can actually speed up blood flow, which increases inflammation, and cold temperatures can increase the rate of uric acid crystallization.
Protect Your Toes
Since cold temperatures can exacerbate gout flare-ups, it’s important to keep your extremities warm. It’s especially important since the area that is most commonly affected by gout is the big toe. According to Discovery Health, 75 percent of people who have gout will experience it in their big toe. For that reason, it’s important to protect your toes by wearing socks and comfortable shoes. If your shoes are narrow, they can pinch your toes, making the gout pain worse.
Pop A Pill
When all else fails, it may be in your best interest to take a nonprescription pill. Ibuprofen can provide some relief and is recommended over aspirin, which can worsen symptoms when taken in low doses. If you prefer a natural alternative, take a fish oil supplement, which can reduce inflammation. Be sure to avoid nonprescription diuretics as they can prevent you from excreting uric acid. (To learn more about managing pain caused by gout, see Gout Pain Management: Guidelines And Recommendations.)
So the next time your gout flares up, use these options to help relieve symptoms in your own home. Keep in mind, these tips on how to relieve gout pain at home are not meant to substitute medical care from your physician or professional health care practitioner.
- Discovery Health
- Mayo Clinic