How to soothe Rheumatoid Arthritis pain without using painkillers

Dealing with pain is a part of life when you’re living with an autoimmune condition. I’m a big advocate of using painkillers if you need to and always recommend you follow the advice of your healthcare provider/doctor as to how and when you take them.

But, there are times when it isn’t possible to use them. Such as, if you are within the 4-6 hours since you have taken your last painkiller.

In my opinion, it’s also a good idea to try other methods before reaching for painkillers.  I don’t shy away from using them when I need to – Life is way too short to suffer needlessly, don’t you agree?  But, I always try some of the methods I’ve shared below before I reach for them.  

Now, this approach may not work for you. We are all different and everyone’s experience with Rheumatoid Arthritis is unique. You need to do what works for you.

With all of that said, let’s get into it.  I have spent a lot of time since I was first diagnosed trying to find safe, simple tools and strategies that soothe my rheumatoid arthritis pain without using painkillers.  I’m sharing with you the 5 that I turn to the most.

(These can also work for other autoimmune conditions…but, if you have another condition that you would like me to write a blog post on, just email me and Ill add it to the list!)

A joint rub using essential oils

I have been making my own joint rubs for many years to help soothe Rheumatoid Arthritis pain. Joint rubs can be made using an oil such as sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, or an unscented cream. I prefer using jojoba oil but there are times when the cream is more convenient. There is no right or wrong, it really comes down to personal preference.

To the oil, I add my favourite essential oils that are supportive of the skeletal and muscular systems. Oils like Ginger, Black Pepper, and Spike Lavender. There are many more but those are probably my most reached essential oils for joint pain and ones I recommend to clients. 

I massage this joint rub on any painful joints as often as I can throughout the day but at least morning & night. A top tip here is not to wait until you are experiencing a lot of pain. You can use this all the time and an added bonus is that your skin will feel really soft.

Baths for soothing Rheumatoid Arthritis pain

I have found warm baths fantastic for soothing Rheumatoid Arthritis pain for many reasons.

The first thing you will notice is that the water helps to take the pressure off your joints. When you lie back in the water you feel weightless and buoyant. This alone will soothe the pain.

The second thing is the temperature of the water. The heat of the water can help with the pain. There are some cases where ice is better to use, but for me the heat on sore, painful joints really provides relief.

If you find the cold helps soothes your rheumatoid arthritis pain, you could be really brave and have a cold bath. 

The third thing is that baths can help to relieve stress & anxiety. When you are in pain, you can feel anxious and irritable. Making a ritual out of bath time can really help with this. Light some candles, play some relaxing music, if you are a mum make sure everyone is happy & settled. You can also add some aromatherapy salts targeted for both pain & anxiety.  

One last thing that I would include in this category is foot baths and hand baths. If you are having pain in your hands and feet and just don’t have time for a full bath, then use a basin of warm water and sit with your feet or hands in it. Don’t underestimate how soothing this is!

Breathwork for managing Rheumatoid Arthritis pain

Breathing techniques are a great way to feel in control of pain. In fact, breathing techniques are often taught in antenatal classes for women in labour for this exact reason. Through breathwork, you will feel more relaxed and calm and endorphins are released.

Endorphins have a pain-killing effect on the body and this is why focusing on breathwork when you are in pain may help.

If you are having a particularly bad pain moment, try the Square breathing technique. Imagine this whole cycle as a square.

Inhale for the count of 4

Hold for a count of 6

Exhale for a count of 6

Hold for a count of 4

This is a really useful technique for acute bursts of pain. An extra bonus for using this is that it will also help to calm and soothe your nervous system, so is very useful if you are stressed or anxious.


Regular easy movement means less joint pain for me, but what I do depends on if I’m in a flare or not. 

If I’m having a flare, I keep it really simple. I go for short walks and do simple stretches to try to keep the stiffness to a minimum.  

When I’m not in a flare, I like to do longer walks and some easy yoga. I also find that cycling and exercise in water such as water aerobics don’t cause any additional pain. 

These simple exercises help to keep stiffness at a minimum and keep my head clear. Even though I have shared different types of exercises, I have to say that my favourite by far is just to get outside and walk and it is what I tend to do the most.

I’d recommend chatting to a physiotherapist or doctor before embarking on any new exercise routine.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) / Tapping

EFT involves gently tapping using your fingertips on acupuncture points. The points are on the face and upper body. It can be used for many different things, one of which is pain. Take a few deep breaths and give yourself a little shake before you start. Then answer the following questions

What is the area that you want to focus on? Is it neck pain, knee pain or all-over pain?

Next, rate the intensity of the pain out of 10. 10 being the highest intensity and 0 being no pain at all.

Then you start to tap. 

The first point is the Karate Chop (KC) point. As you are tapping say the following statement

“Even though I have this pain in [insert painful area], I am doing ok”. Repeat this 3 times. 

Next, tap on the eyebrow (EB) saying “This pain in my [insert painful area]”

Side of the eye (SE) saying “Its a [insert the intensity number here]”

Under the eye (UE) saying “ All this pain in my [insert painful area]”

Under the Nose (UN) saying “It very sore”

Under the Lip (UL) saying “ All this pain in my [insert painful area]”

Collarbone (CB) saying “ I wonder if I can let it go”

Under the Arm (UA) saying “ I wonder what its all about”

Top of the head (TH) saying “ Maybe I can release it”

When you are finished tapping, take some deep breaths and give yourself another shake. When you are ready check in with the two questions you asked yourself at the start. Do you still have pain in the same area and what would you rate the intensity as now?

You can repeat this as often as you need to.

This is a very simplified version of EFT/Tapping. If you would like to learn more about personalised 1-1 EFT sessions that I offer, book a call here and lets chat 🤗




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