More than 600,000 Americans have knee replacement surgery each year, but not all of these procedures are necessary. Designed to be a treatment of last resort to relieve pain, typically from osteoarthritis, at least one-third of knee replacements were found to be medically inappropriate in a recent study at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
"I prefer using natural rather than prescription therapies for arthritis," says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of Real Cause, Real Cure. "The natural program I recommend eases pain, decreases inflammation, and helps repair joints."
Cartilage cushions joints, but in osteoarthritis, it wears away. And in rheumatoid arthritis, it's damaged by misguided attacks from the immune system. In both cases, Teitelbaum recommends repairing cartilage with these supplements:
Glucosamine sulfate: A natural component of cartilage, glucosamine helps to cushion and heal joints by restoring lost cartilage. Take 750 mg, twice daily, for a minimum of 6 weeks.
MSM:While it decreases inflammation and pain and can help relieve arthritis by itself, MSM is even more effective when taken with glucosamine. Take 400 mg, three times daily.
Chondroitin sulfate:Another cartilage-repairing nutrient recommended for severe arthritis, in addition to glucosamine and MSM. Look for an absorbable form described as "low molecular weight." Take 400 mg, three times daily, or 1,200 mg once daily.
To relieve joint pain and inflammation without the side effects associated with pharmaceuticals, Teitelbaum recommends taking omega-3s from a fish oil supplement, as well as the following:
Boswellia:Also known as frankincense, this herb has reduced pain by up to 90 percent in arthritis studies. Take 300-600 mg, three times daily, of an extract, standardized to contain 70% boswellic acids.
Cherry fruit extract:Rich in antioxidants, cherries provide pain relief for many arthritis sufferers. Take 300-600 mg of an extract, three times daily.
Curcumin:The active ingredient in the spice turmeric, curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory. Follow product directions.
White willow bark:White willow's active ingredient, salicin, is similar to aspirin but safer. Take 240 mg daily of salicin (listed on most willow bark products).
Teitelbaum also recommends at least 20 minutes of exercise every day. Do gentle movements and never try to "push through" significant pain. If walking hurts too much, try exercising in water.
If nutrition and exercise don't help, food allergies or sensitivities, or hidden infections, may be underlying factors in joint pain. Two food ingredients in particular-aspartame and MSG-can aggravate arthritis, and are best avoided.
- One extra pound of body weight adds three pounds more pressure on knee joints, and multiplies pressure on hip joints by six. Weight loss of
15 pounds can cut knee pain in half.
- Exercise that is gentle on joints relieves pain. Walking, swimming, stretching, and riding a stationary bike are some good choices.
- Slow, rhythmic dancing relieved knee and hip pain and reduced use of pain medication in 39 percent of participants, according to a study of mostly women with an average age of 80 at Saint Louis University.
The Collagen Connection
Collagen is essential for healthy joints, muscles, and skin. Scientific studies show that more than 90 percent of the collagen found in the body is collagen type 1 and 3. But when it comes to your joints, collage type 2 reigns supreme. Collagen provides cartilage with its strength, and creates a framework that houses the other components of cartilage and 85-90 percent of the articular cartilage in your joints.
The body loses some of its ability to make collagen as we age. Over time, the existing collagen fibers also lose their moist, flexible texture and become rigid. A number of studies have found that taking supplemental collagen type 2-which consists of 18 amino acids that parallel the collagen naturally found in joints-can help restore the collagen needed for healthy joints.
Nature's WayCurica contains a high-quality form of curcumin (Meriva), as well as boswellia and white willow bark.
NeocellCollagen Joint Complex blends type 2 collagen with glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid.
Trace Minerals ResearchActivJoint Platinum features therapeutic doses of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM-plus vital minerals.