OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis: Lifestyle, Exercise, Supplements, and Acupuncture
OA is a chronic disorder. It has never been cured, and there is no well-established way to slow its progression. But therapy can provide comfort, preserve function and improved quality of life.
Lifestyle measures should be part of every treatment program. Patients/clients who are overweight should reduce, and everyone with OA should eat a healthful, balanced diet and maintain good general health. Because mechanical stress increases the pain of OA, patients should avoid high-impact exercise and other activities that trigger pain. Squatting and kneeling, for example, can stress the hips and knees. Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises such as pilates, yoga or swimming is recommended (preferably under guidance). Short rest periods throughout the day are often beneficial.
Massage and Manipulation
Physical therapists can help detect and correct glitches in posture, gait, and body mechanics. They can also supervise therapeutic exercises and they can work with occupational therapists to provide any assistance devices that are needed. Even simple things like well-fitting shoes with good arch supports can help. When hands are stiff or weak,electric can openers, special grips for utensils and writing implements, reachers, easily opened pill bottles, and shoes that fasten with Velcro can make a big difference.
Qualified massage therapists can ease stiffness, tension and inflammation through massage, which stimulates elimination and circulation to increase mobility and nutrients to damage tissue.
Reflexology is also greatly recommended for OA. A qualified reflexologist can stimulate and balance the hypothalamus (central nervous system) and hormones in particular the adrenal gland,
which produces natural cortisone (pain killer). It reduces stress in general, stimulates elimination and circulation, strengthens the immune system and imparts a feeling of well-being plus many other benefits.
Infra Red Mineral Lamp Therapy is also greatly recommended especially for areas that are sore to touch. Gives a feeling of well-being and relaxation.
Chi Machine Therapy physically loosens stiff and tense joints e.g. spine, hips, knees, shoulders with no pressure on joints. Gives a feeling of well-being and relaxation.
See Massage Therapies blog
Many patients/clients with OA feel better after applying heat or cold. A warm shower or bath can help loosen things up in the morning, and warm packs may also promote comfort. Applying cold packs to aching joints for 10 minutes can cut down on inflammation and pain,particularly after exercise. It’s more art than science, so people with OA can experiment with different thermal treatments, continuing anythat seem to help. The same applies to ointments, sprays, and liniments that produce warming or cooling and those containing anti-inflammatory medications. Capsaicin (Zostrix, ArthriCare) is an irritant derived from chili peppers that appears to provide relief by depleting a chemical that transmits pain from nerve endings. Three strengths are available without prescription; it causes a burning sensation and should be applied while wearing a disposable plastic glove. There are also holistic products which can be tried e.g F.L.P. MSM gel or heat lotion - a mixture of the two gels is excellent for almost immediate relief.
Rest makes arthritic joints feel better, but in the long run, exercise is better.
General aerobic conditioning is very important, and low-impact exercise is best. Swimming and other aquatic exercise provide cardiovascular conditioning and flexibility training without the
stress of bearing weight. Walking, biking, elliptical trainers, and rowing machines are also desirable. Gentle stretching andyoga help by improving flexibility. Resistance exercises keep musclesstrong, often taking pressure off joints. People with mild OA can get started on their own, but patients with more serious OA (or other medical problems) should be supervised by a physical therapist or skilled personal trainer.
Simple range of motion exercises can keep joints limber and are particularly helpful the first thing in the morning and after prolonged inactivity. Here, too, instruction and supervision are invaluable. Physical therapists can also help reduce knee pain by taping aching joints.
Until 1997, supplements were obscure preparations used in veterinary medicine. Then The Arthritis Cure burst on the scene, and glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate were in the big time. Glucosamineand chondroitin are both present in normal cartilage. Most supplements of glucosamine are prepared from oyster and crab shells; chondroitin is usually derived from cow or shark cartilage. The products are sold separately or in combination. Manufacturers typically recommend 1,500mg of glucosamine and/or 1,200 mg of chondroitin a day, usually divided into three doses.
There have been scores of studies of glucosamine and chondroitin, but many of them have been small, sponsored by groups with a vested interest, or both. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is running several of the popular ones through the gantlet of large clinical trials. The NIH-funded Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial, or GAIT, included 1,583 people with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. The results, which were published in February 2006, showed no difference between the placebo pills and glucosamine and chondroitin.
As with the results of every study, what’s true on average may not apply to everybody. There are individuals who swear by the relief they get from glucosamine and chondroitin. While that could be just a placebo effect, it may be true for some.
Many other supplements have been advocated as treatments for
OA. They include S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), Ginger, Aloe Vera, DHEA, Niacin, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), and cetyl myristoleate.As of early 2006, there were not enough reliable studies to permit an evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of these products.
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Acupuncture is among the most popular forms of alternative or complementary medicine, particularly for pain relief. Since 2004, three randomised clinical trials have reported that acupuncture reduces pain caused by OA of the knee. True, the benefit wears off after treatment stops, but that’s true of all nonsurgical approaches to the disease.
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