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Effectiveness of Alternative Medicine for Osteoarthritis

Updated on November 1, 2012
Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that commonly affects the knees, hips and/or hands as well as other bones in the body
Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that commonly affects the knees, hips and/or hands as well as other bones in the body | Source

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition caused by degeneration of the joints which can lead to loss of cartilage. The symptoms are joint pains and stiffness. Sufferers commonly experience osteoarthritis symptoms in the hands or a knee or hip joint.A number of factors can cause arthritis i.e. it may be hereditary or metabolic among other causes. If the cartilage is depleted on the ends of the bones it may cause damage to the bone which results in more limited movement which also negatively affects the muscles around the bone.

There are various methods of treating osteoarthritis. One method is replacement of the joint commonly the hip or the knee joint. Analgesic medication for pain relief is another treatment and some sufferers engage the services of a physiotherapist to help alleviate pain and increase mobility. There is also a large group of sufferers who use alternative medicine practices and remedies to relieve their condition and the effectiveness of three of these will be the outlined here.

Alternative Remedies for Osteoarthritis

Although there are various alternative remedies reported to be used effectively by osteoarthritis sufferers the three most commonly reported are yoga, acupuncture and the use of glucosamine supplements.

As with other aspects of alternative or natural medicine, some of the evidence of the effectiveness of these methods is anecdotal and further research is needed to establish their effectiveness in other ways.

Many people choose alternative approaches simply because the medication they take is symptomatic and often causes stomach upset so they opt for a more holistic approach which addresses the causative factors and consequences of the condition instead of just treating the sypmptoms. Each of these three alternative treatments will be outlined here along with evidence of their effectiveness .

Yoga for Osteoarthritis

Yoga has many health benefits for mind and body and has been successfully used by osteoarthritis sufferers to alleviate their symptoms as well as increasing strength and mobility in the affected joints.One study reports that the practice of yoga had a positive effect in terms of pain relief and mobility for those whose hands are affected by osteoarthritis.

Other studies report that yoga is effective for those suffering from knee arthritis by decreasing the amount of pain and increasing the length of time the person can walk easily. Yoga is reported to reduce the inflammation causing the arthritis and there is even a form of yoga called "chair yoga" for those who are elderly or whose mobility is very compromised.

It is clear from research findings that yoga is indeed a good alternative remedy for those suffering from osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis

Acupuncture is another alternative medical practice which many osteoarthritis sufferers use effectively. Osteoarthritis is among the forty conditions that the World Health organization has specified that acupuncture is useful for. Some studies suggest that acupuncture was effective in improving mobility and pain but not to a large extent. Other studies report it's effectiveness in knee osteoarthritis. There is also more research to confirm it's effectiveness for pain and mobility in those with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Perhaps one of the reasons why acupuncture is effective is that it causes the release of natural pain relief substances in the body called endorphins and in particular serotonin. There are also some possible side-effects associated with acupuncture which are the possibility of bruising around the site where the needle is inserted and the insertion of the needles can also be painful.

Overall, acupuncture is reported in a number of studies to be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and is well worth considering if you suffer from this condition.


Glucosamine in Osteoarthritis

The argument in favor of using glucosamine for osteoarthritis is very simple. Analgesic medication treats the symptoms of the problem whereas it is proposed that using glucosamine actually addresses the cause of osteoarthritis by stimulating the repair of cartilage. There are studies reported that the use of glucosamine can relieve the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis better than using painkillers and that it repairs the bone that is damaged. This is reported to occur in the absence of any side-effects. However it is reported elsewhere that those who are allergic to shellfish should not take glucosamine nor it is advisable to take if one is already on blood-thinning medication such as warfarin.

There are numerous studies reporting on the effectiveness of glucosamine in terms of reduced swelling of joints,reduction of pain and increased mobility in osteoarthritis and various research projects have been carried out to support this.

In context of the above, it is well worth considering glucosamine as an alternative remedy for arthritis as it has been quite well-researched and it's effectiveness has been established.

Summary and Conclusion

There is research evidence to support yoga, acupuncture and glucosamine are affective alternative medicine approaches for osteoarthritis. Some other advice that is worth considering is to avoid becoming overweight and to eat foods that reduce inflammation (such as lemons and onions) as part of a balanced diet.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that even though the term alternative suggests that these practices can be used instead of conventional medicine there is nothing to stop the sufferer of osteoarthritis from using these methods in tandem with conventional medicine and what has been advised by their doctor.

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    • Kate Mc Bride profile image
      Author

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thank you 3cardmonte for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    • profile image

      3cardmonte 5 years ago

      GReat hub. My mum suffers terribly with it and it must be horrible.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image
      Author

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      I came across some information on glucosamine and chondroitin but not in combination with MSM. Glucosamine on it's own is reported to be very effective. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    • profile image

      ThomW 5 years ago

      Enjoyed your article. Did you come across any information about using Glucosamine in combination with MSM or any other compounds as far as increased effectiveness over Glucosamine alone?

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image
      Author

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      I am going to have a look at your hubs on this as even though I am young I have had a hip replacement for osteoarthritis and there is a strong family history of arthritis in my family. It is great that exercise keeps your symptoms at bay but I am particularly interested in acupuncture as it is such an established practice with good results. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment-much appreciated.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      My brother is a licensed acupuncturist, and he sees a lot of patients with chronic pain of all kinds, including arthritis. That's partly because of the publicity about this particular application of acupuncture.

      I have rheumatoid arthritis in my hip, rather than osteo. It's currently in remission, without medication of any kind. During past flare-ups, I've found that appropriate aerobic exercise can decrease the pain markedly. That's probably because of the endorphin release. And there's one unusual strength-training exercise that's even more helpful than aerobics.

      I've even written a couple a hub about the DIY approach to living with arthritis.

      Voted up.

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