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8 Alternative Treatments For Arthritis

Arthritis is a group of more than 100 bone diseases that cause inflammation and swelling of joints. It results in excruciating pain and stiffness, which consequently restricts mobility.

Long-term administration of anti-inflammatory medicines like NSAIDs is considered the most effective solution for symptomatic relief. However, some people prefer alternative treatment for arthritis along with the antibiotic course. 

Here are 8 of these non-medical methods that can treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Gout, and all similar forms of bone diseases.

1. Natural Supplements

Plant and animal cells are rich in several therapeutic chemical compounds. Ayurvedic medicine has mastered extracting these compounds to be consumed as pills. These are called natural supplements. 

Fish Oil

Fish oil is rich in omega-3, omega-6, and other important fats that improve bone diseases, hypertension, and cognitive decline. In osteoarthritis (degenerative bone disease) patients, the omega-3 essential fatty acids regulate aggravating actions of white blood cells. This directly normalizes inflammation.

Evidence also suggests that in the case of rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune damage to otherwise healthy bones), consumption of fish oil pills greatly reduces NSAIDs requirement.

Glucosamine

At the level of joints, cartilage, synovial fluid, and some other compounds are naturally present to prevent friction between the bones, as well as for easy mobility. Glucosamine is one of the lubricating components of the protective cartilage.

In several forms of arthritis, loss /degeneration of cartilage is a pathognomonic problem. In these patients, the body is often unable to replace damaged cartilage (and glucosamine). However, glucosamine can be harvested from animals (like shellfish) and packaged into a supplement. 

As an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis, glucosamine supplements reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling and also help improve mobility.

Chondroitin

Chondroitin is another substance found in joints, and its degeneration is an integral element of arthritis development. Like glucosamine, chondroitin is also extracted from animals. When administered with NSAIDs, chondroitin supplements markedly decrease inflammation.

SAM-e

SAM-e or S-adenosyl-methionine occurs naturally in the body. It has anti-inflammatory properties and plays an essential role in protecting cartilage. Therefore, understandably, inadequate levels of SAM-e are integral to arthritis pathogenesis.

SAM-e supplements are available over the counter (OTC tablets). Apart from reducing inflammation and pain, SAM-e also has dramatic anti-depressant effects. Since stress can exacerbate arthritis, these tablets are important in halting disease progression.

Curcumin

Curcumin is a compound that gives turmeric its natural yellow color. It blocks cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) which is an enzyme /chemical involved in the initiation and aggravation of inflammatory pathways. Due to this, curcumin tablets decrease pain and swelling in arthritis.

Vitamins

Vitamins are micronutrients involved in several physiological processes of the body. Inadequate intake or malabsorption of these vitamins can impair protective processes, resulting in weak bones.

Here are some of the major vitamins that are vital to bone health:

  • Vitamin A. Vitamin A supplements are essential to building strong bones in arthritis. Osteoblasts (bone-building cells) need vitamin A to function and multiply properly, which is why its deficiency causes arthritis.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is another antioxidant nutrient crucial for healthy bones. It forms collagen, which is a foundational element for bone formation and growth. 
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for adequate absorption of calcium in the bones. Its deficiency, especially in children, can lead to bone weakness and skeletal deformities. 
  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps preserve bone mass, and its deficiency can lead to arthritis development, especially in post-menopausal women.
  • Vitamin K. Vitamin K is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins. In terms of bone health, vitamin K regulates genetic mechanisms needed for the adequate production of bone-related proteins. 

All these vitamins are available in the form of natural supplements and can improve symptoms as an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis.

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a technique that involves applying pressure on Meridian’s lines by inserting needles. Meridian’s lines are special points on the body, each of which corresponds to a different landmark. 

Oriental medicine believes that applying pressure on these Meredian’s lines can treat any disease of their respective parts. A study shows that acupuncture is helpful at all stages of arthritis. However, the effectiveness depends on the severity of your disease. 

Since acupuncture is a risky procedure that can lead to complications like bleeding, bruising, and pain, you should always consult a skilled and renowned practitioner to get it done.

3. Massage Therapy

Arthritis involves swelling and aggressive inflammation. This results in swelling and tenderness, both on and around the joints. During the massage, sustained pressure is applied to the muscles, which helps relieve the pain. Additionally, massage also reduces stiffness, thus improving mobility. 

4. Physical Therapy and Exercises

As an alternative treatment for arthritis, physical therapy can reduce stiffness in joints and muscles. Although this does not serve as a long-term cure, physical exercises can prolong restricted movement that the patients otherwise experience due to arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends different exercises that can help preserve the joint’s ability to move freely. Braces, splints, and some low-impact exercises like swimming can do wonders in arthritis management.

Additionally, different yoga poses can also improve joint flexibility, as well as reduce tension between the joints and muscles. Child’s pose, cat-cow variation, planks, forward fold, and side-lying pose can all be practiced alongside the medicinal management of arthritis.

A patient can perform these exercises on their own, but it is crucial to consult a physical therapist whenever your arthritis flares. 

5. CBD

Cannabidiol or CBD is a chemical or active component in cannabis (hemp plant). Its therapeutic properties (anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation, etc.) have made it popular as a viable treatment option for several skin conditions, metabolic syndrome, and other diseases.

Arthritis is one of the conditions CBD is widely used for. The topical application of CBD oil on inflamed joints and tender muscles provides pain relief to many arthritis patients.

Even in the case of oral intake, CBD does not cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which is why there is no potential for drug abuse. On the other hand, opioids added in anti-inflammatory medicines that are usually prescribed for arthritis can cause addiction. Due to this, arthritis patients, especially those in their early stages, use CBD oil.

In terms of side effects, as per the WHO report, people generally tolerate CBD well. However, CBD is not FDA-approved yet, which leaves room for the production of CBD products that may contain harmful ingredients. 

6. Herbs

Ayurvedic medicine thrives on the medicinal action of herbs. Following are some plants that serve as an effective alternative treatments for arthritis:

  • Aloe vera. Aloe vera contains anthraquinones which are anti-inflammatory chemicals. Therefore the topical application of aloe vera gel alleviates arthritis pain and swelling. 
  • Ginger: Ginger is another common staple that can treat arthritis. It inhibits the production of inflammatory chemicals.
  • Turmeric. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is anti-inflammatory. Due to this, doctors recommend the regular use of turmeric for arthritis patients.

7. Cell-based Therapies

Cell-based or stem cell therapies are becoming increasingly popular for several orthopedic and sports-related injuries. In the conditions where the body fails to regenerate new cells, cell-based therapies transplant your stem cells in the diseased area to renew the tissue. However, since transplant always carries a risk of host vs. graft disease, the patient’s own stem cells are used as a graft. 

At CELLAXYS, There are two main types of stem cell therapies based on the location cells are extracted from:

  • MMAT: MMAT or Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue involves collecting adipose tissue from one area and transplanting it on the diseased site. The “minimal” in the term implies that very little adipose tissue is excised, which does not affect the natural cushioning of body fat. The doctor can perform MMAT in different parts of your body affected by the arthritis.
  • BMAC: BMAC, or Bone Marrow Concentrate, involves extracting healthy bone marrow for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis.

Cell-based therapies have up to an 80% success rate in terms of regenerative treatment and can even help in the complete reversal of arthritis. They are performed within 2 hours, and the doctor may allow you to go home right after the procedure. To determine the exact location of arthritis, the doctor will use live X-rays and Ultrasounds. 

8. Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)

Platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP, is a technique that involves drawing a patient’s blood, isolating their platelets, and reinjecting them into their spine. Platelets are blood components that are essential in regulating the immune response. This is achieved by the formation of fibrin clots that nodulate the defense response. 

Therefore, in the case of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, PRP limits inflammation. Platelets also release growth factors that promote the regeneration of cells. This helps replace damaged bone tissue and cartilage.

Cell-based therapies and PRP are considered the best alternative treatments for arthritis. At CELLAXYS, we have renowned and learned physicians to perform both procedures in the outpatient department. 

Upon consultation, our experts take detailed history relevant to your disease. After careful analysis of your symptoms and disease progression, they counsel you regarding which alternative treatment (PRP and cell-based therapies) will be effective for your arthritis.

Dr. Matthew HC Otten

Director of Regenerative Orthopedic and Sports Medicine
Fellowship-trained & Board Certified in Sports medicine
Director Angiography at Harvard Clinical Research Institute
Michigan State University Alumni

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