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October 17, 2012

Treating Arthritis Without NSAIDs

Treating Arthritis Without NSAIDstreating arthritis

Those Achy Joints

For many, middle age and the “Golden Years” are greeted with achy joints slowing them down and preventing them from fully enjoying life. Don’t let that happen to you. Treating arthritis can be challenging, but there steps you can take to protect your joints from osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects nearly 14% over age 25 and 34% over age 65, but these numbers are a conservative estimate according to the CDC and don’t tell the whole story. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US and it’s also expensive. People spend $2,600 in out-of-pocket expenses each year coping with their arthritis.

The mainstay of osteoarthritis treatment, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) cause over 20,000 deaths a year mainly due to gastrointestinal bleeding and over 200,000 hospitalizations each year – not exactly drugs without risks.  Plus, they actually accelerate cartilage damage in the joints in the long run while providing symptomatic relief in the short-term. They can adversely affect kidney function, too

What other options exist to manage this common and many times debilitating condition we call arthritis?

Treating Arthritis Without NSAIDs

First, some general advise for treating arthritis. Stay as active as possible. Moving arthritic joints helps to lubricate them and eases joint pain. Also, drink plenty of fluids and eat a low inflammatory diet.  The typical American Diet is pro-inflammatory – so avoid it.

Focus on low glycemic foods in addition to adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats which are anti-inflammatory. Strive to achieve an optimal body weight – no reason to put extra stress on the joints with unnecessary body weight.

Curcumin:  Curcumin is an Indian herb that has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It’s being researched more in more in the US including in clinical trials as an adjunct to cancer treatment. Curcumin inhibits nuclear factor-kappa alpha, the main control modulator of inflammation in the body. In a recent study, curcumin was found to be as effective as diclofenac (an NSAID) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis without the side effects.

Curcumin is not well absorbed, but a patented form called BCM-95 is highly bioavailable. Be sure to look for it in any curcumin supplement you buy. Try 500 mg of highly bioavailable curcumin a day.

Fish oil:  Fish oil is good for just about everything. It too is a natural anti-inflammatory and is an omega-3 fatty acid. In this study fish oil was found to be effective in discogenic low back pain. It can also be effective for arthritic type of pain and provides many other health benefits especially on cardiovascular and neurologic health.

Fish oil also improves hormone-receptor sensitivity enabling our hormones to work more effectively. We recommend you buy a high quality brand and avoid the grocery store or drug store name brand.

Unless you’re taking a blood thinner, we recommend a total daily of 4,000 mg of fish oil daily.

Glucosamine-Chondroitin:  Glucosamine and chondroitin have longed been study in the management of arthritis with mixed findings. Some studies have shown that the combination can retard joint changes seen on x-rays in addition to providing symptomatic relief. It is certainly worth trying either glucosamine alone or with chondroitin. In my experience about half the patients obtain some relief from gluosamine-chondroitin.

If you have an allergy to shell-fish don’t take them, and if you’re a diabetic glucosamine can elevate blood sugars. A standard dose is 1,500 mg of glucosamine and 1,200 mg of chondroitin.

Niacinamide:  Niacinamide is vitamin B3 and related to niacin, which is sometimes used to treated cholesterol. Studies performed as early as 1949 and as late as 1996 showed the niacinamide is very effective at relieving arthritic pain of both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

MSM: MSM or methylsulfonlymethane is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in the body. It’s a derivative of DMSO, which was found to be effective for arthritis, but was associated with many side effects that MSM does not cause. MSM is purported to reduce inflammation in the joints.

It’s association with DMSO has given MSM a bit of black eye and has affected its use in human clinical trials, but this study found MSM to improve physical function and reduce pain after 12 weeks of use in patients with arthritis. MSM is readily available often as part of a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement.

Don’t let arthritis slow you down. Try one or more of the supplements above before considering a NSAID.  And, stay active.

See related articles.

“Fish Oil: The Must Have Supplement”

“Combat Cancer With Curcumin”

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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