By VICKI SALEMI
Nov. 14, 2009
According to the Arthritis Foundation, 27 million Americans are affected by osteoarthritis. This chronic condition is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. It often results in pain; however several natural remedies may help relieve ailing joints.
Jason Theodosakis, M.D. and author of "The Arthritis Cure," explains that pycnogenol is made from French maritime bark extract. "The ingredient is used in 700 products. Studies show it's an anti-inflammatory and reduces cartilage breakdown." According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research, pycnogenol reduced all osteoarthritis symptoms by 56 percent and lowered joint pain by 55 percent.
Also known by its technical name, S-Adenosyl methionine, this coenzyme is involved in methyl group transfers. Medical jargon aside, Dr. Theodosakis says we're not exactly sure how it works, but it has been known to relieve pain in certain people. "It's usually for patients who have osteoarthritis and depression at the same time." The dosage is 400–1,600 mg/day and is used for patients with osteoarthritis, depression and liver disease.
"It's one of the building blocks of cartilage," notes "Dr. Theo." "It's a drug in other countries and a dietary supplement here in the U.S. The recommended dosage is 1,500 to 3,000 mg/day, and a higher dose may be recommended for some people." Glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, which are a major component of joint cartilage.
Chondroitin originally hails from the cartilage of fish or animals that's purified and sold as a dietary supplement, and Dr. Theo notes that it may be utilized for arthritic pain relief. "The dosage is 800 to 1,200 mg each day. It helps slow the breakdown of cartilage and is used as a supplement."
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil has been used to treat arthritis for more than 200 years. "It's still highly effective," says Dr. Joseph Brasco, board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology and author of "The Great Physician's Rx for Health and Wellness." "Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil reduce inflammation by reversing the actions of enzymes that break down collagen and cartilage. Because of this, cod liver oil can help prevent arthritis or reduce symptoms of anyone already suffering from it."
Kevin R. Stone, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon at the Stone Clinic in San Francisco, reminds us that human joints are similar to metal joints in that they require lubrication. "The body produces natural oil called hyaluronan. Increasing the natural oil decreases wear and tear from impact, running injuries and arthritis." That said, he recommends good old-fashioned water in its frozen form. That's right -- ice! Dr. Stone says compressing ice on the affected area for about 20 minutes an hour is effective for relieving arthritis pain. "It anesthetizes local nerve endings and decreases joint swelling."
Soft Tissue Massage
Dr. Stone advises that patients seek physical therapists with soft tissue mobility skills. He explains, "The soft tissue massage stimulates cells to reduce natural inflammation and stimulate tissue healing." Three massages for 30 minutes to one hour are recommended on a weekly basis to relieve pain.
Eunice Kan, L.Ac., at Live Well, an acupuncture and herbal medicine clinic, says acupuncture helps relieve arthritis pain and inflammation by decreasing the inflammation in the tissues and circulating blood flow smoothly throughout the body, as well as at the affected area. "Specifically for inflammatory pain such as arthritis, research has found that acupuncture moderates the peripheral sensitization stage of pain, thus decreasing the pain signals."
According to Carrie Plumley, homeopathic and herbal expert for the Vitamin Shoppe, topical capsaicin can help relieve pain when rubbed on joints. "It achieves this effect by depleting nerves of a pain-mediating neurotransmitter called substance P. Although application of capsaicin cream initially causes a burning feeling, the burning lessens with each application and disappears for most people in a few days."
It may seem old-school, but experts say ingredients in specific herbs provide pain relief in the joints. Plumley explains, "Boswellia is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine [the traditional medicine of India] to treat arthritis and reduce arthritis symptoms. Some doctors suggest using 400-800 mg of gum resin extract in capsules or tablets three times per day." Eileen Klein, M.D., FACP with Summit Medical Group adds, "Anti-inflammatory herbs come in combos quite often. Look for ginger, tumeric, boswellia and oregano. These herbs may inhibit the formation of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation."