Osteoarthritis Pain Relief
Is On the Way, Naturally
What are your holistic medicine options for osteoarthritis pain relief? Before even addressing that question, it’s important to remember why one would be interested in natural medicine options in the first place. Briefly, it’s sufficient to state at this point that arthritis medications(prescriptions and over-the-counter) have not had a flawless track record for safety. So while these medications may be effective at reducing the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis, many people are already aware of possible hazards and are looking for holistic medicine therapies. This brief overview will cover some of the more common that I recommend in practice, with a reminder that this page is for information only, and does not constitute medical advice in your individual situation. So this review of osteoarthritis pain relief will cover herbal anti-inflammatory medications, magnetic energy and acupuncture, mind-body medicine, and manual therapies.
Which herbal medications can be effective for osteoarthritis pain relief? Each of these has its own page on the Holistic Medicine MD site, so please refer to those for details.Ginger has a long history of use in traditional medicines around the world as a remedy for joint complaints, and now has scientific medical studies to back up that tradition. Turmericis an excellent anti-inflammatory herb closely related botanically to ginger. A proprietary product made by New Chapter called Zyflamend combines these and other herbs into a safe and effective herbal medication. Parenthetically, it was the discovery of the active ingredient (salicylic acid) in white willow bark by the German company Bayer in the late 19th century that really launched the modern pharmaceutical industry. Many of the prescription medicines now on the market have their origin in plant based medicine and have been modified in some way.
While not an herb, a dietary supplement called SAM-e has been very effective sometimes in relieving osteoarthritis pain. This is quite safe and available at most health food stores. Similarly, there are good data supporting the use of glucosamine (with or without chondroitin).
Admittedly, I can find no really well done scientific studies that document the effectiveness of magnets for pain relief. But anecdotally, I have known more than a few people whose symptoms improved dramatically. I think this is a field that is ripe for research, and over time I expect we will discover not only which people respond best to magnets for osteoarthritis pain relief, but also the biophysical mechanisms involved.
So while the evidence for magnets is word of mouth, you may have said the same thing about acupuncture 40 years ago. The history of acupuncture’s introduction into the medical practice of the United States and Europe actually goes back to the late 1800′s; it’s not well known that Sir William Osler (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine) actually included reference to acupuncture in his first edition of the landmark text Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892). Its use only became widespread starting in the 1970′s after Nixon’s trip to China opened cultural exchanges. And now almost 40 years later, we have good research showing that acupuncture provides symptomatic relief for osteoarthritis of the knee and also low back pain. Like magnets for health, acupuncture works on the level of an invisible energy, which traditional Chinese Medicine has called Qi (chee). Qi may have a direct relationship to the electromagnetic signals carried by nerves in the body, but the research on that is still unfolding as well. So while the mechanisms are not completely understood, it is clear that acupuncture is helpful for osteoarthritis pain relief.
Mind body medicine, including clinical hypnosis and guided imagery, is a very effective method to reduce pain and increase quality of life. Hypnosis is certainly under used by conventional medicine and is often misunderstood by the people who could benefit from it. Yes there are plenty of research articles documenting the effectiveness of hypnosis, but still my joy in medical practice comes not from research articles but from seeing patients improve from hypnosis practice. It is one of the most satisfying parts of my holistic medicine practice; if you don’t live close enough for a personal appointment, look for professionals certified by theAmerican Society for Clinical Hypnosis.
Manual therapies such as physical therapy are very useful for providing osteoarthritis pain relief. A physical therapist can guide patients in gentle exercises that keep joints mobile, prevent loss of muscle strength from disuse, and decrease pain while increasing function. Gentle exercises such as water aerobics, tai chi or Qigong, careful yoga, bicycling and walking are all recommended.
With that variety of holistic medicine options, I think that almost anyone can find some osteoarthritis pain relief; and I personally hope that gives you reason for hope!
To your health and wellness,
Robert Pendergrast, MD