The main symptom of osteoarthritis is chronic pain, causing loss of mobility and often stiffness. "Pain" is generally described as a sharp ache, or a burning sensation in the associated muscles and tendons.
Osteoarthritis can cause a crackling noise (called "crepitus") when the affected joint is moved or touched, and patients may experience muscle spasm and contractions in the tendons. Occasionally, the joints may also be filled with fluid. Humid weather increases the pain in many patients.
Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of water on the knee, an accumulation of excess fluid in or around the knee joint.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. Despite lot of research and effort, generally speaking, the process of osteoarthritis is irreversible, and typical treatment consists of medication or other interventions that can reduce the pain of osteoarthritis and thereby improve the function of the joint. Natural treatment options for osteoarthritis may include:
Weight control. Less weight, less stress on the joints.
Acupuncture. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis concluded "clinically relevant benefits, some of which may be due to placebo or expectation effects"
Heat. Heat can ease inflammation and swelling, and may improve circulation, which has a healing effect on the local area.
Exercise. Regular exercise, if possible, in the form of walking or swimming, is encouraged. Applying local heat before, and cold packs after exercise, can help relieve osteoarthritis pain and inflammation, as can relaxation techniques.
Bone Friendly Diet. Nutritional changes shown to aid in the treatment of osteoarthritis include decreasing saturated fat and using a low energy diet to decrease body fat. A low fat vegetarian diet can reduce ostearthritis symptoms. A macrobiotic diet has been known to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms as well.
Supplements. There have been several studies showing potential benefits of dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis . Potential treatment options may include:
Glucosamine. Supplemental glucosamine may improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and delay its progression. The jury is still out as there are studies that show the benefit, while other studies conclude that glucosamine hydrochloride is not effective and that the effect of glucosamine sulfate is uncertain.
Chondroitin sulfate. Along with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate has become a widely used dietary supplement for treatment of osteoarthritis. The Osteoarthritis Research Society International is in support of the use of chondroitin sulfate for osteoarthritis, however there have been studies which have found no benefit from chondroitin.
Antioxidants, including vitamin C and vitamin E in both foods and supplements, has shown in studies to provide pain relief from osteoarthritis.
Pycnogenol. A new study to be published in the April 2008 edition (Volume 22, issue No 4) of the journal of Phytotherapy Research shows Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, was shown to reduce all osteoarthritis symptoms by 56 percent. The study revealed a particularly high efficacy of Pycnogenol for lowering joint pain by 55 percent. Moreover, patients required dramatically less standard pain medication (-58 percent), which greatly improved the gastrointestinal complications resulting from the pain medication by 63 percent. In addition to the osteoarthritis results, 76 percent of the patients in the Pycnogenol group and 79 percent in the placebo group showed visible ankle and foot edema at inclusion of the study. After the three months, edema decreased in 79 percent of the Pycnogenol patients and only one percent in placebo-treated patients. A even larger more detailed study on osteoarthritis carried out at the University of Arizona Tucson (published in Nutrition Research) prior to this study had discovered that Pycnogenol was effective for improving pain and joint function. After three months in the Pycnogenol group, there was a reduction of 43 percent in pain, 35 percent in stiffness, 52 percent in physical function subscales, respectively. The placebo group showed no significant scores throughout the entire study. Based on the studies the benefits of Pycnogenol for arthritic joints are suggested to result predominantly from the anti-inflammatory potency of Pycnogenol. There are more breakthrough studies on Pycnogenol and osteoarthritis expected to be published next year allowing for development of innovative, natural formulas for joint health.
Boswellia. Boswellia is an herbal supplement in Ayurvedic medicine also know as Indian frankincense, salai guggal, and boswellin. The proper botanic label for boswellia is Boswellia serrata. It is derived from the resin of the bark of the Boswellia tree. While it grows in other parts of Southeast Asia, it is found abundantly found in the Indian subcontinent. The condition for which boaswellia has had the most supporting evidence for a beneficial effect is arthritis. The most convincing study was published in 2003 (Phytomedicine. 2003 Jan;10(1):3-7) when a research study examined patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Half of the patients received daily supplementation with 333 mgs of Boswellia. The other half received placebo. After the first intervention, washout was given and then the groups were crossed over to receive the opposite intervention for eight weeks. All patients receiving boswellia reported decrease in knee pain, increased knee flexion and increased walking distance. The frequency of swelling in the knee joint was decreased. Radiologically there was no change. The observed differences between drug treated and placebo being statistically significant, are clinically relevant. The conclusions of the study were: “Boswellia serrata extract is recommended in the patients of osteoarthritis of the knee with possible therapeutic use in other arthritis.” Other studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Diseases that have been studied where good results have been reported include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and bursitis.
Ginger (rhizome) extract. Ginger has shown in some studies to improve knee osteoarthritis symptoms moderately.
Hydrolyzed collagen (hydrolysate). Hydrolized collage (a gelatin product) may also prove beneficial in the relief of osteoarthritis symptoms, as substantiated in a German study by Beuker F. et al. and Seeligmuller et al. In their 6-month placebo-controlled study of 100 elderly patients, the verum group showed significant improvement in joint mobility.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids is a supplement comprised of important oils derived from fish has shown to benefit bone health. In fact, recent studies have shown that plant-based omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) contained in such foods as flaxseed and walnuts may have a protective effect on bone health, according to a team of Penn State researchers who carried out the first controlled diet study of these fatty acids.
Selenium. Selenium deficiency has been correlated with a higher risk and severity of osteoarthritis.
Vitamins B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin). Both taken in large doses significantly reduced osteoarthritis hand pain, presumably by reducing systemic inflammation.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been reported in patients with osteoarthritis, and supplementation with Vitamin D3 is recommended for pain relief.Free Tools for Maintaining Good Bone Health