Alternative Therapies for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects millions worldwide. While age is certainly a risk factor for developing the condition, three out of five patients with osteoarthritis are under 65. Common causes of the condition stem from joint overuse, which can occur due to aging, demanding activities, or obesity. Though osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the knees, feet, hips, and spine are most frequently affected.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, as the impacted individual experiences pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. While prescription medications and surgery may be beneficial, and even necessary, there are several alternative therapies for osteoarthritis. Here are some different approaches to try. 

Exercise

Whether it's tai chi, yoga, weight training, or a brisk walk, exercise helps to strengthen muscles around the joint. This can better support the joint and protect it from further wear and tear. An added benefit is that exercise can help with weight loss, which can remove some of the load off of impacted joints. 

Acupuncture 

Acupunture involves inserting fine needles into different points of the skin. The belief is based upon the ancient Chinese concept of qi or energy flow. When the normal energy flow is blocked, pain results. By inserting needles into particular points, the practitioner aims to restore the normal energy flow of the body.

Studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain are still limited, though research has demonstrated its efficacy for knee osteoarthritis in particular. Insurance tends to cover acupuncture, and a few sessions should be enough to determine whether it's right for you. 

Massage

The muscles around arthritic joints tend to spasm. During a massage, one can expect to experience an ease in muscle tension and an improvement in circulation. Furthermore, pain sensations may decrease due to elevated endorphin levels. 

Research has shown that regular massage therapy can reduce stiffness and improve mobility. Be sure to find a massage therapist who has experience working with clients who have osteoarthritis, as the joints are more sensitive and must be handled appropriately. 

Herbs and Supplements

A multitude of supplements can help ease osteoarthritis symptoms by reducing inflammation. Turmeric has been used for centuries in 

Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and one of its chemical components, curcumin, is believed to bring down pain and inflammation. Though it is safe for most people, turmeric supplements are not recommended for pregnant women. Additionally, glucosamine and chondroitin, when taken in conjunction for 12 weeks, can provide an easier movement. A study found that taking it for two years led to decreased joint space narrowing compared to a placebo pill. 

TENS

TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a handheld device that interrupts pain signals via electrical charges through patches adhered to the skin. A study found that three months of use helped improve function and minimize pain. 

Diet

Many foods reduce swelling and inflammation, the culprits behind osteoarthritis-related pain. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to promote joint and wound healing. Furthermore, skipping out on refined sugars, while adding in heart-healthy foods, has also demonstrated promise in alleviating pain.

The Arthritis Foundation emphasizes a diet like the Mediterranean Diet, which focuses on vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, fish, and whole grains. These foods can help improve inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis. 

Orthotics

There are several devices that can be used to support and protect the joints. Braces can alleviate some of the stress on the joint, and can also realign distorted ones. Orthotics may also be placed in shoes to absorb the shock that occurs while walking. Canes are a commonly used orthotic, though it is recommended that one learns to properly use them. This includes obtaining a cane that is the correct length for one's height.

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects millions of people globally. It can be debilitating, with poor impacts on a person's quality of life. While conventional medical treatments offer relief, one can also turn to alternative therapies for improvements in symptoms and overall wellbeing. These are just a few of the natural treatments for osteoarthritis. Always remember to consult with your doctor when adding one of these into your regimen. 


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