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Articles  |  Conditions  |   Natural Therapies for Osteoarthritis

Natural Therapies for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and many people turn to natural therapies to help manage the condition. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of osteoarthritis and some therapies that can help with its management.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis may include:

  • joint pain that is worse with movement and better with rest
  • stiffness in the morning or after a period of inactivity
  • swelling of the joints
  • joints that are warm to the touch
  • a crunching or crackling noise when the joint moves
  • limited range of motion
  • muscle weakness
  • an abnormal growth of bony knobs near the joints

Nutrition and Dietary Supplements for Osteoarthritis

Glucosamine and chondroitin are substances that occur naturally in the cartilage of the body. These substances are shown to help reduce inflammation. Glucosamine is taken either by mouth or by injection into the joint or muscle. Glucosamine sulfate is the most commonly used form and it has been shown to decrease pain, improve range of motion, and to have a longer lasting effect than NSAIDs such as ibuprofen. Chondroitin is also taken by mouth or injected into joint or muscle. It reduces the need for conventional medication, relieves pain, increases mobility, reduces swelling, decreases the amount of fluid in the joint, and slows the progression of osteoarthritis.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a supplement that may decrease the stiffness felt in the morning, reduce pain, reduce swelling, and improve the sufferer’s range of motion. It appears to have few side effects. Vitamin D is vital for the health of bones and cartilage, and using vitamin D for osteoarthritis helps to prevent cartilage breakdown. Low intake levels of this vitamin may contribute to a greater risk of osteoarthritis in the hip or joint changes related to osteoarthritis.

Antioxidants are helpful in the management of osteoarthritis as they relieve oxidative stress on the body as well as the inflammation caused by free radicals. Free radicals can be made in the joints and they can cause degenerative changes in the aging body, including destruction of cartilage and connective tissue. Antioxidants can help to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis and these include vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish (especially salmon), flaxseed, rapeseed, and walnuts. A diet rich in these fatty acids can decrease inflammation and reduce the activity of enzymes that break down cartilage. Manganese is one of the substances that people need in order to build cartilage.

Herbal Medicine for Osteoarthritis

Herbal medicine is very popular amongst osteoarthritis sufferers and some of the most effective herbs include:

  • Devil’s claw
  • Willow bark
  • Stinging nettle
  • A combination of aspen, ash, and goldenrod
  • An Ayurvedic mix of Ashwagandha, boswellia, and turmeric
  • A combination of willow bark, black Cohosh, sarsaparilla, guaiacum, resin, and poplar bark

Capsaicin is the hot substance in chili. When it is applied to the skin, it can deplete stores of a substance that contributes to the inflammation and pain, thus providing pain relief to osteoarthritis sufferers.

Avocado/soybean extracts stimulate the growth of collagen in cartilage cells and people may experience a reduction in pain and disability, improved mobility, and a reduced need to use NSAIDs. Cat’s claw can significantly reduce knee pain while ginger and kava kava can reduce pain.

Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis

Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for treating the pain associated with osteoarthritis, as well as improving joint function and walking ability. Acupuncture may be more effective than some conventional medications.

Chiropractic for Osteoarthritis

Chiropractic care for osteoarthritis sufferers may be able to:

  • increase range of motion
  • restore normal movement of the spine
  • relax the muscles
  • improve joint coordination
  • reduce pain

Massage and Physical Therapy for Osteoarthritis

Massage and exercise may decrease or delay the need for surgery in people that suffer from osteoarthritis. People that have gotten a swedish massage and/or exercise find that they have less stiffness, reduced pain, improved functional ability, improved walking distance, and a reduced need for surgery.

Magnet therapy uses electromagnetic fields. Low-energy AC and DC magnetic field stimulate the production of cartilage. Therapeutically, magnets can be applied to the skin directly over a bone or joint, or via pulsed electromagnetic fields that induce an electrical current in the target tissue without making direct contact with the body.

Balneotherapy is an old therapy used for pain relief and it refers to bathing in thermal or mineral waters. Mud baths that contain sulfur, for example, have been shown to relieve arthritis symptoms. Balneotherapy can improve the range of joint motion, increase the muscle strength, eliminate muscle spasms, enhance functional mobility, and reduce pain.

Ice massage, transcutaneous nerve stimulate (TENS) and electroacupuncture can reduce pain at rest, reduce stiffness, boost walking speed, increase quadriceps muscle strength, and increase the knee range of motion. Mechanical aids, or orthoses, are also available for osteoarthritis sufferers in order to support and protect joints. Orthoses include splints, braces, and shock absorbing soles in shoes. They should be fitted by a physical or occupational therapist.

Homoeopathy for Osteoarthritis

People that suffer from osteoarthritis should use a homoeopathic remedy that has been specifically designed for them by a homoeopath. However, some remedies that may help include:

  • A topical gel containing comfrey, poison ivy, and marsh tea
  • A combined preparation that includes R. toxicodendron, arnica, climbing nightshade, bloodroot, and sulphur
  • A liquid preparation including R. toxicodendron, potassium hydrate, and cow’s milk

Other common remedies include:

  • Calcarea carbonica
  • Bryonia
  • Graphites
  • Guaiacum
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