5 Alternative Treatments for Osteoarthritis

If you have osteoarthritis, you're probably familiar with the traditional treatment options—such as medication and physical therapy—that can offer relief from pain and stiffness.

Yoga can help you manage the stress and pain of osteoarthritis.

But those aren't your only options. In addition, there are several complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments you can consider to help decrease pain and increase mobility and quality of life.

5 more potential ways to relieve pain

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests the following supplemental treatment options for osteoarthritis:1

  1. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements

    These supplements can be taken together or separately and have been found to relieve pain for osteoarthritis, particularly in the knee. However, some experts disagree on their benefit, and the American College of Rheumatology has recommended that people with hip or knee osteoarthritis not use glucosamine or chondroitin.

    Also, glucosamine can react with certain other medications like blood thinners, so talk with your doctor before taking one or both of these supplements.

  2. Acupuncture

    Numerous studies have been done to determine whether this ancient Chinese practice is helpful to those with osteoarthritis. The results have been mixed, but there's some good evidence to support its use. For example, one meta-analysis of 12 different studies found that acupuncture was connected with:2

    • Significant reduction of pain intensity
    • Better functional mobility
    • Better health-related quality of life

    You can find a certified acupuncturist by visiting the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

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  1. Massage therapy

    A few studies have shown massage therapy to be helpful to those with osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee. According to American Massage Therapy Association, massage can reduce blood pressure, relax muscles, and release endorphins.

    Be sure to find a massage therapist who's licensed to practice in your state. You can also look for therapists who are board certified, which means they have passed a test of their skills and experience. Visit the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork for more information.

  2. Tai chi

    Tai chi is a practice of meditative movement. It’s been shown to improve balance for those with knee osteoarthritis, who are at increased risk for falls because of knee weakness and instability. Tai chi is considered a safe practice for nearly everyone.

  3. Yoga

    Not many studies have been done specifically about yoga and osteoarthritis. However, many studies have confirmed the benefits of yoga in managing stress and anxiety, which are often challenges for those with osteoarthritis.

    Yoga is generally considered safe, but be cautious about poses that may hyperextend your arthritis-affected joint(s). Find an experienced instructor, possibly someone who also has experience instructing those with arthritis or other chronic conditions.

Talk with your doctor first

As with any health treatment, it's important to talk with your doctor before you begin any new program. Your doctor knows your unique health story best—he or she can help you decide what would be the most helpful and effective options for you.

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References:

  1. "Osteoarthritis and Complementary Health Approaches." National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. May 2014.
  2. "Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis." BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 2014 Aug 23;14:312
Post written by Carrie DeVries