As we age, our joints take a beating. Knees, hips, shoulders, and even the joints between the vertebrae of your spine can start to degenerate, leading to pain, inflammation, and loss of movement.
This degeneration of the cartilage that provides cushion between the bones at our joints, is called osteoarthritis. According to the NIH, an estimated 27 million adults in the United States live with osteoarthritis.
Luckily, there are some holistic treatments and supplements that can help us handle painful joints. Complementary treatments – including acupuncture, massage, exercise, and heat therapy – can help ease joint pain and stiffness, making it easier to live a full and fun life.
According to the Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), the first large-scale clinical trial in the US to test the effects of the dietary supplements glucosamine hydrochloride (glucosamine) and sodium chondroitin sulfate (chondroitin sulfate) for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, these supplements work as well as prescription NSAIDs like Celebrex®.
For a subset of participants with moderate-to-severe pain, glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate provided statistically significant pain relief compared with placebo—about 79 percent had a 20 percent or greater reduction in pain versus about 54 percent for placebo. According to the researchers, because of the small size of this subgroup these findings should be considered preliminary and need to be confirmed in further studies.
Since there are few side effects from glucosamine and chondroitin, and many from Celebrex®, it couldn’t hurt to try the supplements. You may notice that many supplements also contain MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). While there is no research as yet showing the MSM helps joints, there is also no research showing any negative side effects.
From a recent Johns Hopkins Arthritis newsletter,
According to a study presented at the 2008 European Union League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) meeting in Paris, nearly 75 percent of patients who presented at a rheumatology clinic — including those who were subsequently diagnosed with inflammatory joint diseases, soft-tissue rheumatism, uncomplicated musculoskeletal backache or osteoporosis — were deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D3 also helps build bone, as well as playing a role in a healthy immune system.
In a 2004 study, 250 osteoarthritis patients were given similar fish oil doses.
Of the 250 patients, 125 returned the questionnaire at an average of 75 days on fish oil. Seventy-eight percent were taking 1200 mg and 22% were taking 2400 mg of EFAs. Fifty-nine percent discontinued to take their prescription NSAID medications for pain. Sixty percent stated that their overall pain was improved, and 60% stated that their joint pain had improved. Eighty percent stated they were satisfied with their improvement, and 88% stated they would continue to take the fish oil. There were no significant side effects reported.
No side effects and the same pain relief as a prescription NSAID? Again, the supplement wins!
There are several joint pain supplements that have clinical support to back them up. These supplements have very few to no negative side effects, and most are shown to provide pain relief equivalent to prescription NSAIDs such as Celebrex®.