Dear Dr. Garner,
I have terrible arthritis pain. I have tried medications and they just don’t seem to work.
What else can I do? Can you please help me?
Aching in Astoria
Many people use alternative remedies for arthritis but there is little evidence that they work. I have included below a “Top 10 List” for treatment of arthritis using unconventional techniques and supplements. The key to success for any of these is to reduce pain so you can exercise and maintain flexibility.
A review of the leading treatments not involving prescription drugs include:
- Acupuncture: This has been used for pain with the use of fine needles at specific points in the skin. Many people have found this helpful.
- Electric nerve stimulation: Small electric shocks stimulate the nerves near the affected joint that may block the transmission of pain signals to the brain, giving some relief.
- Yoga: Yoga and t’ai chi have been shown to improve flexibility and range of motion.
- Glucosamine: Recent studies have not been positive toward the use of glucosamine. It works no better than a placebo, but it works nonetheless to relieve pain without taking anything. However, it does seem to bring relief to many people.
- Massage: Light stroking and kneading of the muscle may increase blood flow and warm the affected joints temporarily relieving pain.
- Meditation: Meditation and relaxation techniques may reduce pain by helping to reduce stress. Those who are depressed and also have arthritis can benefit the most from meditation.
- Exercise: Regular movement helps to maintain flexibility in joints.
- Hot and cold treatments: This can really work to relieve pain. Long warm showers or baths, especially in the morning, help ease stiffness in the joints. An electric blanket or heating pad can be used at night to keep the joints loose.
Cold treatment is best for relieving joint pain. You can wrap an ice pack over the affected joint for quick relief.
- Weight loss: One of the most important things I can recommend is to lose weight. Shedding a small amount of weight can relieve pressure on the joints and reduce stress.
- Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids and gingko among others have been shown to help arthritis pain. It is always important to talk to your doctor before taking these or any supplements to determine if it interacts with any medical conditions you may have or treatments you are already taking.
You should do some gentle exercises daily. This will help you feel less stiff. Move your neck from side to side, change the position of your hands and bend and stretch your legs. Stand and walk around every half hour or so. Physical therapy can help improve your range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints.
The main point to take away from this discussion is that you must work as a team with your doctor to fight arthritis pain in the ways that work best for you. There are many conventional as well as unconventional treatments available today. The key is to maintain flexibility and reduce stiffness of the joint.
Thank you for your question.
Dr. Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on NET TV, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Time Warner Channel 97, Cablevision Channel 30 and Verizon FiOS on Demand.