Alternative Treatments to Osteoarthritis Sufferers

August 29, 2015 by dccinc

Osteoarthritis (OA), also called degenerative joint disease, causes cartilage in the joints to break down leading to pain, stiffness, swelling and eventually bone-on-bone contact and disfigurement. OA is the most common form of arthritis, affecting untold millions of people worldwide. As of this writing there is no cure.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

OA most often targets the hands, spine and load bearing joints of the body like the hips, though any joint is a potential target for the disease. Symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling of affected joints
  • Stiffness after periods of inactivity
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Cracking sound in the joint
  • Knobs or protrusions around the affected joint

Some risk factors for Osteoarthritis include:

  • Aging
  • Being overweight
  • A family history of OA
  • Joint injuries
  • Repetitive stressing of joints
  • Difficulty Walking

Common Forms of Treatment for Osteoarthritis

Since there is no cure for osteoarthritis the main goals of any OA treatment plan must be to relieve pain and improve function. The most common forms of treatment include physical therapy to improve motion and overall physical health, hot or cold therapy for short term relief of pain, supportive devices like canes to promote mobility and topical, oral or invasive drug therapies. In the most serious cases narcotics may be indicated.

While doctors strive to develop more effective treatment methods and researchers continue to search for a cure some sufferers have sought relief in alternative therapies. While these treatments by their very nature exist outside the spectrum of what is known as “Western medicine” many have nonetheless shown promise and so continue to gain adherents as the wait goes on for a cure.

Alternative Treatment Methods For OA

  • Acupuncture: Perhaps the most effective of alternative methods for dealing with OA symptoms and side effects, acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and has proven its value in numerous ways. Recent government sponsored studies have only confirmed what many already knew: that acupuncture is useful for controlling pain and regaining mobility for those afflicted with osteoarthritis.
  • Tai chi: While it may seem inadvisable to engage in martial arts if you suffer from OA the fact is that Tai chi is as much about restoring and maintaining physical and mental balance as it is about neutralizing an opponent’s aggressive energy. Through controlled breathing and slow, carefully choreographed motions it is possible to re-acquire a sense of control over your physical self that may have been badly compromised as you struggled with the progression of OA.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound has been around for decades and over the years proposed as a treatment for a wide range of ailments. Up to now it has not proven to be an effective treatment for any particular malady but there is a growing body of evidence today that it may actually provide measureable, real world benefits in the treatment of osteoarthritis. While more research no doubt needs to be done, ultrasound is one possible treatment you may want to consider if you haven’t already.
  • Herbal Remedies: Proposed herbal remedies for OA run the gamut from green tea to willow bark. Many of these home remedies had drifted off into obscurity until recent decades when the necessity for additional therapies to help the growing numbers afflicted with OA demanded alternatives be explored. Years after being brought back from the fringe however there is still precious little evidence that herbal remedies provide anything more than a possible placebo effect and care should be taken if you decide to explore this form of treatment. The same must be said of nutritional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin.
  • Magnet Pads: You may have heard that magnets are the latest thing in OA treatment and that by wearing a magnet pad around your knee you can get relief from OA related pain and swelling. The truth is that studies involving magnets have yielded little evidence that they are actually an effective OA therapy, yet some continue to testify to their beneficial effects.
  • Fish Oil: There is evidence to suggest that fish oil may have beneficial effects in reducing swelling in the joints of people suffering from OA.

Image Credt Wikipedia {link to}


If you are inclined to attempt an alternative therapy to more effectively manage symptoms of your OA you would be wise to keep several important points in mind:

  • Better Safe Than Sorry: Do not ditch your current conventional treatment plan until and unless the alternative method has proven itself more effective beyond any reasonable doubt. You could be letting yourself in for significant setbacks should you abandon your current plan prematurely and the alternative treatment prove to be unsuccessful.
  • Be Careful What You Take. Natural is not necessarily synonymous with safe. There are thousands of compounds in the world which occur naturally but should never be ingested. If you decide to explore a herbal remedy make sure to do your research first.
  • Beware of Scams: Unfortunately, the alternative therapy landscape is no less susceptible to scams than any other arena of human experience. If something sounds too good to be true it probably is, so approach any alternative treatment promising miraculous results with an abundance of caution

Osteoarthritis has been a thorn in humanity’s side going back to the dawn of civilization. While significant progress has been made in recent decades in the fields of OA research and treatment we still do not have a cure and so the work continues. There is nothing wrong with seeking alternative methods of treatment for your OA, but such a search must be conducted with a clear mind and an open but questioning approach. Never let impatience make decisions for you and never subject yourself to untested treatments that could make your condition worse. And, as always, consult your doctor before making any changes to your current treatment plan.

Sufferers of osteoarthritis may be eligible for a $40,000 tax credit designed to help lessen the financial burden of people with disabilities. This program has helped many rebuild their lives in the wake of a shattering diagnosis.

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