If you have osteoarthritis, you may want to consider trying complementary and alternative treatments. Many of these treatments can be done at home and may help you decrease joint pain, increase mobility, and improve your day-to-day living.
The 5 treatments described below are considered generally safe for most people with osteoarthritis. While they do not require a prescription, it is a good idea to consult a health professional first. A professional can consider a patient’s unique circumstances and provide advice to help maximize the benefits and minimize the potential risks of treatments.
1. Take a turmeric (curcumin) supplement
Derived from a plant in the ginger family, turmeric is a powdered spice and an essential ingredient in curry dishes. It may be difficult to eat enough turmeric spice to experience its benefits. Supplements that contain concentrated levels of curcumin are available in most grocery, pharmacy, and health food stores.
While these supplements are considered safe for most people, they are typically not recommended for women who are pregnant.5 (Foods flavored with turmeric and curries are safe to eat during pregnancy.)
2. Try acupuncture
The ancient practice of acupuncture is based on the belief that the body has patterns of energy flow, referred to as qi. When there is an ailment obstructing the normal energy flow, pain will result. By inserting thin needles in specific points, the practitioner aims to re-open the pathways and restore the normal flow of qi.
While the theory of qi has not been proven, research does suggest acupuncture may ease pain caused by osteoarthritis, particularly knee osteoarthritis.6-9 This treatment is generally safe and may even be covered by insurance.
The numerous studies that support using acupuncture to treat osteoarthritis tend to be small or not well designed,10 so more research is needed to understand its true benefit. Like almost any nonsurgical treatment, you can try it and see if it works for you. A few sessions should be enough to decide.
It is generally advisable to work with a licensed acupuncturist (LAc) who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
3. Get a massage
Limited research evidence suggests that massage therapy helps treat joint pain associated with osteoarthritis11,12 as well as other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis13,14 and fibromyalgia.15
Massage is generally believed to improve circulation and reduce muscle tension. Evidence suggests massage may also reduce blood pressure16,17 and release endorphins that potentially elevate mood and ease pain sensation.18,19
Therapeutic massage is offered by a variety of practitioners, including massage therapists and other licensed health professionals, such as physiotherapists, physical therapists, and chiropractors. When selecting a massage therapist, be sure to find one who is licensed to practice in your state. You can also look for therapists who are board certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.
Arthritic joints can be sensitive, so it’s best to work with someone familiar with osteoarthritis.
4. Use cannabidiol (CBD)
Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) may help reduce inflammation, pain, and anxiety associated with arthritis and other chronic pain conditions.20-22 CBD does not produce the “high” or psychogenic effects of marijuana.
CBD products include oils, tinctures, and edibles made for consumption. Topical creams and gels can be applied directly to painful joints for localized effects. You may need to use trial and error to find your preferred product and dose.
CBD products are not well regulated, so be discerning while shopping. Look for products that are clearly labeled and undergo regular third-party testing. Also, contact your doctor or pharmacist regarding potential drug interactions.
5. Practice tai chi
Like physical therapy, tai chi has been shown to decrease joint pain and stiffness and improve function in people who have knee arthritis.23,24 This mind-body practice has Chinese origins and involves:
- Using slow, deliberate movements to transition between specific poses
- Breathing that is coordinated with movement
- Engaging mental focus and relaxation techniques
Evidence suggests tai chi also improves balance, an important benefit for people who have arthritis and are at risk for falls. Tai chi is considered safe for nearly everyone—it can even be adapted to do while sitting.
Successful treatment of chronic osteoarthritis pain often requires a mixture of traditional and complementary and alternative (CAM) treatment strategies. Learn more about CAM treatments for arthritis at Integrative Medicine for Arthritis Pain Relief
How Yoga Helps the Back on Spine-health.com