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December 2, 2013

Alternative Treatments of Arthritic Pain

Arthritis affects most people as they age.  We either have osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease or rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune illness.  Most people with arthritis turn to alternative approaches to treat their pain, as the pharmaceutical options often have significant side effects, or are not effective enough to relieve pain and suffering.  In the following I have categorized the research:

- Anti-Inflammatory Diet:  Dr. Vasquez in his functional medicine monograph of Musculoskeletal Pain shows that implementation of an anti-inflammatory diet forms the foundation for all other interventions.  This diet moves away from grains and refined sugars, allergens, arachidonate, trans fats, and chemicals while incorporating more fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids, and lean sources of low-arachidonate proteins like fish and whey.   Intake of high carbohydrate foods are avoided since they suppress immune function and likely promote subclinical infections and dysbiosis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is inherently pro-inflammatory and therefore contributes to pain.  Curbing inflammatory processes in the body curbs pain caused by inflammation.

- Weight Loss: In a recent 18 month study of 454 overweight and obese adults with osteoarthritis results revealed that when participants lost at least 10 % of their body weight they enjoyed significant improvement in both pain and function; those who lost weight and exercised had even better outcomes: they had improvements in pain and function, as well as mobility, quality of life, and blood markers of inflammation.  Pain was reduced by about 50% in this ladder group.

- Supplements: Many studies have shown the anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3 fatty acids.  So it is not surprising that a study showed that women who take an average of 1500mg of omega-3s per week compared to women who consumed less, had a 29 % lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.  Women who took more than 1500mg per week of omega-3s weekly had a 52% reduction in risk. If patients already have an arthritic condition, Vasques in his paper ‘Reducing Pain and Inflammation Naturally’ recommends 3000-9000mg of EPA & DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) per day.  At these high dosages bruising and excessive bleeding may occur, especially if taken with a blood thinner.  If you take omega-3s medicinally, please consult with a specialist familiar with natural treatments.

In addition, have your Vitamin D level checked, since low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to chronic health problems, including inflammation and autoimmunity.    Other supplements you may want to explore are Zyflamend that has shown to reduce inflammation as effectively as NSAIDs, when given the proper time to its maximum effectiveness, and SAMe with Vitamin B, which aids cartilage repair, reduces pain sensitivity and has shown to be as effective as Celebrex for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Again, natural treatment can be very effective but they require more attention, discipline and frequently the changing of entrenched habits.



[1] IBID.

[2] IBID.

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