One in every five adults in this country lives with arthritis. Another 300,000 children under the age of 18 have a diagnosis of some form of the disease. There is no cure for this disabling condition and few options for treatment. It is one of the reasons people turn to supplements and other natural remedies for relief. According to Consumer Reports, the dietary supplements industry in this country pulls in $28 billion a year. That is double the amount of money Americans spend on prescription medications. Top sellers are products that promote healthy joints. Unfortunately, it is an industry with little regulation and often very little real results for arthritis sufferers. So what can people who need relief from the pain and symptoms of arthritis do? There are natural ways to help improve both.
Exercise and Weight Loss are the Best Remedies for Arthritis
First, begin with a lifestyle evaluation. Diet and exercise are both important in managing arthritis. Carrying around extra weight adds pressure to your joints. For those with arthritis, that added joint stress means greater inflammation and pain. According to Laura Robbins, Senior Vice President of Education at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, for every pound you lose, you take four pounds of pressure off your knees. That translates to 40 pounds less pressure for a weight loss of just 10 pounds.
Since many people with arthritis are in pain a great deal of the time, it is often difficult to summon up the motivation to get moving and exercise. But experts agree that exercise is critical to decreasing inflammation and improving pain levels. Walking, swimming and biking are all lower impact types of exercise that can help build the muscles supporting damaged joints. Arthritis in the hands is common in older adults. One natural remedy is to fill the sink with warm water and perform simple hand stretches and exercises in it.
Arthritis Supplements and Topical Remedies
When diet and exercise are not enough, many arthritis sufferers turn to over-the-counter medications and supplements. Glucosamine, Chondroitin, fish oil, and ASU are just a few of the supplements those living with arthritis have likely tried or thought about trying to manage their disease. The labels on these and others like them boast miracle cures and promises. But few live up to their hype. Topical remedies may offer short-term relief but they come with a risk. Many fall under the Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs category (NSAID) and can be harmful to those living with cardiovascular diseases.
Supplements to Consider for Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
The Arthritis Foundation has identified nine supplements they believe have the science to support the promised outcomes.
For treating Osteoarthritis (OA):
• SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)
• Boswellia serrata (Indian frankincense)
• Capsaicin (Capsicum frutescens)
• Turmeric/curcumin (Curcuma longa)
• Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU)
With OA “Honorable Mentions” goes out to the following:
• Chondroitin sulfate
• Glucosamine sulfate
• Pine bark extract
For treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA):
• Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
• Fish oil
• GLA (gamma linolenic acid)
• Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
With RA “Honorable Mentions” for:
• Green-lipped mussel extract
A note of caution for anyone who might be considering adding these or any other dietary supplements and herbal remedies to their treatment plan: Some may cause prescription medications to work less effectively and others may cause adverse reactions. Talk with your physician before trying any of the remedies listed above.
How to Evaluate Supplements for Safety
If someone living with arthritis has decided to try a supplement to help manage the pain and symptoms of their disease, the next step is to identify which companies produce the best supplements. While the FDA does not test this industry in the same manner that it does prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, there are independent certifications you can turn to for added confidence in a purchase. Manufacturers voluntarily submit their products to these programs for independent, unbiased evaluations. Look for the seal from one of these four organizations when you are evaluating supplement safety and effectiveness: