Osteoarthritis is a debilitating and painful condition that can seriously affect your quality of life. It is a chronic, long-lasting illness which causes daily discomfort and is extremely difficult to live with. Many of the medications on offer simply relieve the pain and they aren’t always right for everyone. Here’s everything you need to know about the alternative treatments on offer for osteoarthritis.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting an estimated 27 million Americans.It occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of your bones wears down over time. In fact, most people over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis (although the severity varies). Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but most commonly the hands, knees, hips and spine.
The cartilage is a slippery, firm tissue which enables frictionless joint movement. Over time, the cartilage wears down and bone rubs on bone when the joint moves. This causes pain and inflammation.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease. This means that it worsens over time, and the pain and joint stiffness can become so severe that daily tasks become difficult.
What Are The Risk Factors For Osteoarthritis?
Some of the factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis are:
- Older age
- Joint injuries – for example, old sports injuries.
- Bone deformities
What Traditional Treatments Are Available For Osteoarthritis?
The current treatments recommended by osteoarthritis tend to relieve the pain, but not treat the cause. For example:
- Acetaminophen – this relieves pain. It is important to keep to the recommended dose, or you could get liver damage.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – these reduce the inflammation and relieve pain, but can cause stomach upset, cardiovascular problems and bleeding problems.
- Duloxetine – this is used to treat chronic pain.
Because the traditional treatments can present nasty side effects and become less effective over time, many people turn to alternative treatments. Let’s Look At The Natural Remedies For Osteoarthritis…
Exercise is widely used as a natural treatment for osteoarthritis. Ideally, a mix of gentle weight training alongside aerobic exercise works best – this strengthens the muscles around the affected joint, helping it become more flexible and providing greater support. Exercise also increases blood flow to the cartilage, bringing nutrients to keep it healthy.
Being overweight puts a huge amount of pressure on your joints (particularly your hips and knees), worsening your osteoarthritis pain. Losing weight can reduce pain and even slow progression, making this a potential natural cure for osteoarthritis.
Ice and heat therapies
Thermotherapy, using heat or cold on the affected joint, is an effective homeopathic remedy for osteoarthritis. Heat can improve circulation and relax muscles, cold can decrease swelling and block nerve impulses to the joint.
Supplements as natural remedies for osteoarthritis
There are various supplements which may help to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms. Two of the most exciting are glucosamine and chondroitin; these are naturally produced in the body and are structural components of cartilage. Taking them as a supplement can lead to an improvement in symptoms and better movement.
Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids (such as oily fish, nuts and seeds) play a role in reducing inflammation and improve joint healing. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation recommends eating a Mediterranean diet which is naturally high in Omega-3 as a method of controlling osteoarthritis symptoms.
Acupuncture therapy involves inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body, and is effective at relieving pain. Many osteoarthritis patients have reported a decrease in pain and an increase in movement range after acupuncture sessions.
Hydrotherapy – a spa-based alternative treatment for osteoarthritis
Rather than taking pain medication for osteoarthritis, many patients swear by hydrotherapy or sulphur-rich mud baths. Taking a trip to a spa may not seem like an osteoarthritis cure, but reports suggest that the warm water and minerals really can help to relieve pain.
Your body communicates with you very effectively through pain. When you’re in agony with your osteoarthritis it’s because your body is screaming at you that it needs help dealing with a problem. One great natural treatment for osteo pain is Pulse Electro Magnetic Field (or PEMF) therapy, which supercharges the cells in your body and replenishes the natural energy reserves that become depleted over time as a result of the pressures of modern life and your environment. A simple but highly effective form of pain management, PEMF is drug-free, fast-acting, and completely natural. It’s also a highly effective way of treating low bone density and strengthening your bones. In fact, it’s so effective, NASA use it to treat their astronaughts when they return from space!
Mind-body exercise – a homeopathic remedy for osteoarthritis
Exercises which focus on the link between mind and body are known to relieve osteoarthritis symptoms. Practices such as yoga are particularly effective; the muscles are stretched and strengthened while the mind focuses away from pain. This improves flexibility, increases movement and releases endorphins, relieving pain.
These are just some of the natural remedies available for osteoarthritis. However, as the condition can affect many different joints, what works for others may not work for you. For example, a great treatment for osteoarthritis knee pain may not work for hip pain. Let’s look at the best treatments for localised pain.
Osteoarthritis Knee Pain Relief
One of the most common joints to be affected by osteoarthritis is the knee. In particular, people who have experienced old sports injuries are likely to develop osteoarthritis in the knee. It can have a devastating effect when you have always been fit and healthy, and many people feel that taking pain medication for osteoarthritis is not the answer. Fortunately, there are many other therapies and treatments available specifically for bone on bone knee pain relief.
The best knee brace for osteoarthritis…
One of the least invasive treatments available is an osteoarthritis brace. It manages the discomfort by shifting your weight off the damaged portion of your knee, offering stability and increased confidence in using the knee. The brace can be worn when walking, exercising or even for most of the day – whatever feels best. The brace can keep you moving and help you to manage pain.
Hyaluronic acid knee injections
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring knee joint lubrication, and it breaks down in people with osteoarthritis. Hyaluronic acid knee injections for osteoarthritis, taken once a week for three to five weeks, can help to increase movement and relieve pain for up to six months. This is one of the most effective knee osteoarthritis treatment options for those with mild to moderate osteoarthritis, and there are very few risks associated with this treatment.
Electrical stimulation for knee osteoarthritis
There are various types of electrical stimulation, from TENS to neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to pulsed electrical stimulation (PES) to noninvasive interactive neurostimulation (NIN). All of these have had studies which show some element of relief for osteoarthritis.
All of these work slightly differently. As we saw earlier, TENS interferes with pain signals in the nerves. PES, on the other hand, sends a low-level pulsing electrical current into the affected joint. This increases blood flow to the area, triggering the body’s own healing process. NMES, on the other hand, sends an electrical current that causes the muscle to contract. The stimulation increases strength and range of movement, essentially “re-training” muscles when they have been weakened or damaged due to osteoarthritis.
All of these electrical stimulations are a great alternative to invasive medications.
Physiotherapy for knee arthritis
Exercises can not only provide immediate pain relief, but also improve muscle strength – and so improving the range of movement available. Some of the most effective exercises are aerobic walking, tai chi and resistance training.
The main goals of physiotherapy for knee osteoarthritis are:
- Reducing knee pain and inflammation
- Increasing the range of motion available in the knee joint
- Strengthening the leg muscles
- Increase muscle length through stretching
- Improve function (walking, squatting, etc.)
What is the best treatment for knee osteoarthritis?
There are many alternative treatments available for knee osteoarthritis, and traditional medication doesn’t have to be one of them. Remedies are numerous, and osteoarthritis knee surgery doesn’t have to be one of them. Because these natural remedies are low risk with very few (if any) side effects, it is often worth trying several to find the best pain relief for your osteoarthritis.
Shoulder Osteoarthritis Treatment
Osteoarthritis of the shoulder can be extremely painful, and lead to issues doing normal day-to-day tasks such as putting on clothes over your head, or using a hairdryer. Osteoarthritis shoulder surgery is highly invasive and has long recovery times.
Some effective natural remedies include:
- Physiotherapy – a set of gentle exercises which will strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint and increase the range of movement. Yoga and tai chi can help here.
- Thermotherapy – applying ice or heat to the shoulder to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow.
- Supplements – taking glucosamine and chondroitin can be a great treatment for severe osteoarthritis with few side effects.
Osteoarthritis Of The Spine Treatment
Spinal osteoarthritis can make it very difficult to lead a normal life. Symptoms include stiffness and pain in the neck and back, and weakness and numbness in the arms and legs if the osteoarthritis is severe enough to affect the spinal nerves.
Spinal osteoarthritis surgery is intricate and can take 18 months + to recover from. So, alternative therapies are usually looked to.
Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for spinal arthritis: swimming, walking and water aerobics all help. Additionally, massage and acupuncture may help.
Osteoarthritis Neck Treatment
After the age of 60, more than 85% of people will have osteoarthritis of the neck, as the vertebrae get worn down from years of supporting the head. While it is tempting to stay immobile, this will actually only increase the stiffness. Instead, stretches and gentle movement such as through yoga or pilates can relieve the pain.
Osteoarthritis Foot Treatment
Osteoarthritis of the foot be extremely painful and, when other joints have osteoarthritis too, can hinder that treatment which can help so much – exercise. Although osteoarthritis of the foot can be treated with steroid injections, those seeking alternate treatments might consider pads or arch supports, custom shoes or orthotics (inserts which support the foot).
Ankle Osteoarthritis Treatment
If you have osteoarthritis of the ankle, you will likely want to avoid osteoarthritis ankle surgery, with its long recovery times, where possible. As always, some of the best treatment for ankle degenerative arthritis is exercise. However, with this particular joint, if you have previously enjoyed activities such as jogging and tennis, you may want to consider less impactful activities such as swimming and cycling.
Natural Remedies For Osteoarthritis In Hands
If you have osteoarthritis in your fingers and hands, it can be very difficult to manage – particularly if you have a job which requires frequent use of your hands (such as typing, or manufacturing). It can also seriously affect hobbies and, because of this, your quality of life.
There are some exercises you can do to help:
- Knuckle bends – make a claw shape with your hands, then straighten your fingers again.
- Finger touches – touch each fingertip to your thumb in turn.
- Fists – form a fist, then unfurl your fingers.
Additionally, introduce more foods that are high in flavonoids to your diet. Flavonoids help to control inflammation, and foods that contain them include:
Osteoarthritis Hip Pain Relief
Some of the best alternative osteoarthritis hip treatments include:
- Acupuncture for pain relief
- Hydrotherapy (submerging in very warm water with minerals)
- Massage – Swedish, deep tissue and hot stone can all work well to reduce hip pain. The key is to ensure that the massage involves moderate pressure, because it is this pressure that boosts production of the stress-reducing chemicals like serotonin, reducing pain.
- Supplements – alternative, natural treatments such as capsaicin, glucosamine, gamma linolenic acid and ginger are anti-inflammatory and help to increase the range of movement.
Low-impact physical therapy can help too – activities such as yoga, tai chi, stationary biking and swimming all relieve pain in your hips and increase your range of movement.
Herbal Remedies For Osteoarthritis
Herbal remedies are an excellent, natural way to get relief from osteoarthritis pain. Here are some of the most best herbal treatments:
- Aloe vera – aloe vera is a succulent with a long history of being used for medicinal purposes. Aloe vera gel can be applied to aching joints to soothe them.
- Boswellia – boswellia (also known as frankincense) has incredible anti-inflammatory properties. It protects joints and helps to relieve pain.
- Cat’s claw – this herb comes from a tropical vine and can help to reduce swelling.
- Eucalyptus – eucalyptus leaves contain tannins can reduce swelling and pain.
- Ginger – ginger can increase blood circulation – this brings healing properties to the affected area.
- Green tea – green tea is known to reduce inflammation, and this will reduce pain and increase movement.
- Thunder god vine – not only does this herb have an incredible name, it’s also one of the oldest herbs used in Chinese medicine. It can be applied to the skin to reduce inflammation.
- Turmeric – turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Its active ingredient is curcumin, which is what gives turmeric its vivid yellow colour. Turmeric fights pain best when taken orally.
- Willow bark – willow bark contains salicin, which helps to reduce the production of prostaglandins in your body – this eases pain and discomfort. Willow bark has been used as a treatment for pain since the 500BC, when Greek physician and master of medicine Hippocrates recommended chewing the bark.
Chinese medicine is an ancient practice and some chinese herbs have been used in the treatment of the pain from osteoarthritis for millennia. It is not a surprise that so many people today are turning to this natural remedy. As always, it is important to check the side effects and ensure that you don’t have any allergies before trying this medicine.
Osteoarthritis can really affect your quality of life. If you’re used to being active, the growing pain and stiffness will be difficult to accept. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to! Although there are traditional treatments and cures – steroid injections, painkillers and surgery, there are also many alternative treatments which can help you to achieve a pain-free life. Whether your osteoarthritis is affecting your knees, hands, back or multiple joints, there is an alternative treatment that you can try.
If you would like more advice about the best pain relief and latest treatments for osteoarthritis, get in touch with our team at BluVida. We offer the best, most innovative alternative treatments for osteoarthritis pain here in Texas. If you’re ready for a pain-free life, book your PEMF session now…