What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis affects an estimated 27 million Americans. This painful condition develops when there is a breakdown of cartilage in the joints.
Osteoarthritis can occur with age, or it can be caused by a joint injury or stress on the joints from a specific job, sport, or being overweight. Over time, some people experience extreme inflammation and permanent damage to the joint. The joint may even need to be surgically replaced.
Conventional Treatment of Osteoarthritis Pain
The primary approach of conventional medicine is to manage osteoarthritis pain with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, and COX-2 inhibitors such as Vioxx. These drugs block the activity of enzymes and prostaglandins that cause pain and inflammation, but they do not alleviate the underlying cause of osteoarthritis; they also have dangerous side effects. The COX enzymes impede beneficial prostaglandin production, which can impair circulation, particularly to the stomach and the connective tissue. These enzymes and prostaglandins are important for other functions in the body including blood flow and digestion. Health problems can occur when their activity is blocked. NSAID use has been shown to cause life-threatening ulcers, as well as side effects such as diarrhea, headaches, and nausea. Surprisingly, long-term use of NSAIDs also damages joint cartilage, making osteoarthritis much worse over time.
How to treat osteoarthritis naturally
The introduction of the COX-2 inhibitors was meant to reduce ulcers and digestive issues associated with NSAID use. Unfortunately, the side effects of COX-2 inhibitors are even more dangerous and include risk of heart attack. As a result of these side effects, Vioxx was taken off the market in 2004. Celebrex is another popular COX-2 inhibitor that may carry the same risks.
Osteoarthritis is a prime example of the significant need for safe natural alternatives to OTC and prescription drugs. Many natural alternatives can alleviate pain while working on the underlying cause. Some natural substances have been studied for decades and are proven to promote joint health. While many of these natural substances don't provide immediate relief, they have been scientifically proven to protect and repair joint tissue.
1. Be Active and Lose Weight!
Physical activity keeps joints flexible, strengthens the surrounding muscles, and helps with weight loss. The Arthritis Foundation reports that for every pound of weight loss achieved, there is a four-pound reduction in pressure put on the knees with each step.
2. Take Glucosamine Sulfate, Chondroitin, and MSM
Glucosamine sulfate, discovered by Italian researcher Lucio Rovati, may treat the root cause of osteoarthritis by helping the body manufacture and rebuild joint cartilage. Glucosamine sulfate has been the subject of hundreds of studies, most of which have shown clear benefit. Dosage is 1,500 mg daily, and it must be taken for at least eight weeks before benefits are seen.
Glucosamine sulfate is often combined with chondroitin sulfate. As chondroitin is a larger molecule than glucosamine, it may not be as readily absorbed as glucosamine. A study in the February 2009 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism found that a highly purified (at least 95 percent) form of chondroitin sulfate may prevent progression of joint degradation in individuals with knee osteoarthritis. The study participants took 800 mg of the purified chondroitin for two years.
MSM is a key source of sulfur in the body, and numerous studies have demonstrated that sulfur is important for joint function. In 2008, researchers at the University of California, San Diego confirmed that MSM relieves inflammation and protects joint cartilage. Dosage is 1,200 mg daily.
Keep in mind that all three of these substances take several weeks (even months) to work. People needing quicker pain relief should try a highly concentrated form of curcumin, found in products such as Curamin from EuroPharma. Curamin is safe to use with the previously mentioned natural substances and may help some people avoid NSAIDs or prescription drugs. Never discontinue taking a prescription drug without first talking to your doctor.
3. Use Fast-Acting Topical Creams
In addition to curcumin, topical creams containing an innovative all-natural ingredient known as Celadrin can provide fast-acting pain relief. This unique ingredient is made through the proprietary processing of esterified fatty acids. It has been shown in clinical studies to naturally lubricate joint tissue and reduce inflammation. A 2004 study from the University of Connecticut published in The Journal of Rheumatology demonstrated that topical Celadrin cream improved functional performance in individuals diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. The researchers noted an improvement in range of motion, ability to ascend and descend stairs, and an ability to rise from sitting.
Celadrin is also available in capsule form; the dosage is 1,000 mg daily. Celadrin is especially beneficial for those experiencing joint stiffness that often accompanies osteoarthritis.
4. Take Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)
The newest natural ingredient for the treatment of osteoarthritis is avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) made from phytosterols found in avocado and soybean oils. Several double-blind clinical studies have demonstrated that ASU is effective in reducing pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. A 2001 study showed that patients with painful knee osteoarthritis were able to significantly reduce their intake of NSAIDs while taking ASU. A recent 2008 meta-analysis confirmed these earlier results. Dosage for ASU is 300 mg daily.