Joint pain and stiffness from arthritis can be devastating to physical health, limit daily life and be harmful to one’s emotional well-being. While many treatments exist to address the symptoms, there is no cure for the many forms of arthritis that affect more than 50 million Americans.
Conventional therapies, such as physical therapy, medications, (analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDS, and injections, or cortisone and artificial joint fluid) are the mainstays of allopathic medicine in managing arthritic symptoms. In the majority of cases, these treatments offer symptomatic relief. However, for those who do not find adequate relief, or for those who prefer a more “nontraditional” approach, there are other treatments to help achieve satisfactory results.
• Acupuncture: Originating in China more than 3,000 years ago, acupuncture involves the placement of thin needles into the body to stimulate the central nervous system, which in turn releases compounds that relieve pain. Gaining acceptance as a treatment to lessen pain and inflammation, an estimated 3 million Americans each year receive acupuncture treatment for chronic pain.
While its effectiveness requires further study, early research offers promising signs that, in combination with conventional treatment methods, acupuncture lessens chronic pain from osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Anecdotally in my own practice, I regularly see patients who feel adding acupuncture to their treatment plan effectively reduces pain and stiffness.
• CBD: CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of approximately 75 compounds known as cannabinoids that are derived from the hemp plant. A number of these compounds, most notably cannabidiol, are felt to have anti-inflammatory effects. Not to be confused with marijuana, hemp derived CBD does not have the high associated with marijuana.
It is felt that the cannabinoids exert their effect through the endocannabinoid system found in humans. A recent Arthritis Foundation study found nearly 80% of respondents were either using, had used or were considering using CBD as an alternative therapy to manage arthritis pain. Of those using CBD, most reported improvement in physical function and well being.
CBD comes in many forms, including topical and oral. Because there is the potential for drug interactions, it is important to discuss this option with your doctor before initiating use.
• Turmeric: Turmeric, which includes curcumin, has shown to be an effective antioxidant that helps lessen pain and inflammation. Research suggests turmeric targets specific inflammatory cells and blocks certain enzymes that lead to inflammation and may be as effective, with fewer side effects, as ibuprofen for osteoarthritis of the knee.
Due to possible drug interactions, it is critical for patients to discuss the use of turmeric with their physicians.
These are just a few of the nontraditional therapies receiving growing recognition among the medical community. I encourage patients who may not be experiencing satisfactory results from conventional methods to discuss alternatives with their physician.
And, it is important to remember that what may work for one person, may not work for another. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, so they do not act, nor can they be treated, alike. But for those suffering with chronic pain, it is important to know there are emerging options to explore that may provide relief.
Dr. Matthew Levy writes about orthopedics for the Cleveland and Columbus Jewish News. He is an orthopedic surgeon at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and practices in Solon, Independence and downtown Cleveland.