Ruth Cohen, DC, a 57-year-old chiropractor in Greenvale, NY, has lived with knee osteoarthritis (OA) for a long time. But the former college gymnast isn't ready for an operation to replace her joint. "I'm always looking to deal with alternative treatments before resorting to drugs or surgery," Cohen says.
To ease her symptoms, she's turned to alternative treatments. Some have worked better than others. Strength and balance exercises, for example, have helped. Acupuncture, not so much.
While there's no cure for osteoarthritis, you can still do much to relieve pain and stay active. Your osteoarthritis treatment will depend on several factors, including the severity of your pain -- and how much it affects your everyday activities.
Osteoarthritis often progresses slowly, with periods when there's little or no change. If you have mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis, you can probably control your symptoms with nonprescription pain relievers. When those don't work, your doctor will...
How much they do for you may be a matter of trial and error. For some people they can make a huge difference, but not for others.
Cohen tried this method but gave up after a few weeks. "To be honest, I didn't get relief," she says. But that doesn't mean you won't.
When you get acupuncture, a licensed professional puts thin needles into your body at different points. It's a traditional Chinese form of medicine.
There are mixed results from research. Some studies show people feel better after acupuncture, but others show it doesn't make much difference.
If you want to try it, look for a licensed practitioner. Give yourself enough time to see if you get any improvement. It may take three or more sessions. The results may last about a month or so.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Cohen takes an assortment of supplements to treat her OA, including glucosamine and chondroitin.
Neeraj Gupta, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Southern California Orthopaedic Center, says a combination of those two supplements is a good idea. He recommends it to all his OA patients. The typical dose is 500-1,500 milligrams a day.
"I have personally taken it for my knee for over 5 years," Gupta says. "After stopping for several weeks, I certainly do feel increased pain in my knee joint."
But it hasn't been scientifically proven. If you already take glucosamine and chondroitin, it's OK to keep it up. But the American College of Rheumatology doesn't recommend you start taking them to treat your OA.
This traditional Chinese form of exercise can strengthen your muscles, help your coordination, and make your joint more stable. If you keep at it, you won't hurt as much in the long run. In one study, people who took tai chi classes twice a week for 12 weeks felt better up to a year later.
If you try it, move through poses slowly and gently. Take a one-hour class, 1-2 times a week.