Recommended Natural Treatments & Remedies for Each Stage
If you have osteoarthritis, you certainly feel the pain, but you may not know its name. Osteoarthritis is a painful and progressive joint disease and people who suffer from it typically seek out medical attention and are then diagnosed with the disease.
Why all the pain?
People with osteoarthritis often have joint pain and reduced motion. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It results from a number of factors including:
- Joint injury
- Being overweight
- Stresses on the joints from work and/or sports
- Joints that are not properly formed
- An abnormal defect in the joint cartilage
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease affecting both cartilage and bone. Cartilage covers the ends of bones, which allows them to glide over each other. It also helps absorb the shock of movement. In osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, and consequently, the bones under the cartilage rub together. The rubbing causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, bone spurs may grow on the edges of the joint.
Osteoarthritis does not necessarily cause inflammation, but can result in extreme pain and eventually severe loss of the ability to move your joints. As stated before, osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, meaning it will slowly get worse over time. When pronounced joint pain first sends a patient to seek treatment, the doctor can usually tell what stage of the disease the patient is currently in. The four stages of osteoarthritis are: Acute Subacute Chronic Degenerative
Depending upon the stage of the disease, the doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment. If a patient is in the early stages—acute or subacute—mild pain killers and lifestyle changes might be the recommendation. However, if the disease has progressed to the chronic or degenerative stages, the treatment options are much more limited and the long-term prognosis can be much worse.
But there is hope … particularly if you have not yet entered the degenerative stage. Even then, there are some things you can do to ease the pain and suffering and return some flexibility of movement. So what can one do if they have osteoarthritis? A lot actually. What follows is a breakdown of each stage of the disease and a list of time proven natural remedies that can be helpful for people in a particular stage. Some of these herbs work well across all four stages of osteoarthritis. Others may only be useful in the acute stage, and still others may bring relief to people who are in the latter stages of the disease. But let’s start at the early stages…
Acute osteoarthritis—people in denial
The word acute in medical jargon means short-term and/or severe. One might have acute pain (severe) for a short period of time. When it comes to osteoarthritis, the acute stage is characterized by occasional joint pain. Short periods of time where joints—knees, hips, elbows, hands, fingers—are stiff and painful to move.
Most people in the acute state of osteoarthritis don’t think of themselves as having arthritis. These people are the exception to the rule that if you have osteoarthritis then you probably know it. Instead, people with acute osteoarthritis are somewhat in denial. They chalk these minor aches and pains up to old sports injuries or to the natural signs of aging. But this is a big mistake. Remember, osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. Without taking some action to arrest it in the acute stage, it is inevitable that the subacute, chronic, and degenerative stages will follow.
Acute osteoarthritis is characterized by minor stiffness and joint pain. Some people think the weather may play a role, and that’s partly true. Cold weather does cause stiffness and loss of flexibility in people with acute osteoarthritis. It can take a while for joints to warm up and allow flexibility to return.
If you suffer from acute osteoarthritis, one of the very best natural treatments you can take is Devil’s Claw extract. We’ll get into more details about Devil’s Claw extract and the other natural remedies later in the article, but for now let’s move on to subacute osteoarthritis.
Subacute osteoarthritis— no denial here
People who are in the subacute stage of osteoarthritis are very much aware they have a problem with their joints. Often times, this stage is characterized by localized joint pain. Some people may feel extreme pain and stiffness in their fingers and hands, but their other joints function properly and painlessly. Still others, depending upon their age and lifestyle, may feel the symptoms in their shoulders or knees, but their fingers and hands feel fine.
The thing to remember about subacute osteoarthritis is that it’s not too late. At this stage, localized pain and stiffness can not only be relieved, but it can also be reversed. Like acute osteoarthritis, Devil’s Claw extract can provide pain relief. Other natural substances like glucosamine, boswellia, and curcumin can be useful in this stage to arrest the progression of the disease and reverse the damage.
Chronic osteoarthritis—constant pain in multiple joints
If your osteoarthritis has progressed to the chronic stage, you are probably in quite a bit of pain. Movement in the chronic stage can be severely limited, and you might very well be taking prescription drugs designed to relieve the symptoms, but do nothing to address the cause of the disease. These drugs, of which NSAIDs (nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the most common, often have unpleasant side effects.
But even if you are suffering from chronic osteoarthritis, there is still hope. Nature’s pharmacy contains some amazing treatments that can bring relief to those who are in the chronic stage. Again, Devil’s Claw extract can treat the pain of chronic osteoarthritis. In fact, Devil’s Claw is so powerful it can even help those in the degenerative stage too. Other natural remedies for chronic osteoarthritis include glucosamine, chondroitin, betaine, and ginger extract.
Degenerative Osteoarthritis—bone on bone and unbearable pain
The degenerative stage of osteoarthritis is truly unfortunate. The degenerative stage is characterized by a complete loss of cartilage surrounding the joint and the terrible pain of bone rubbing on bone. People in the degenerative stage are often immobile, or at the very least extremely feeble and wheelchair bound. They are also prescribed powerful narcotic pain killers to relieve the condition.
To say the degenerative stage of osteoarthritis is hopeless, however, would be wrong. All the natural treatments already mentioned can bring some relief to those suffering from degenerative osteoarthritis. However, the dosage required is almost always much larger. Someone in the acute stage might find relief from one or two capsules of Devil’s Claw extract, while someone in the degenerative stage would take two or three times as much of this natural pain reliever. Additionally, Devil’s Claw extract might be the only remedy the acute sufferer would require, while the person in the degenerative stage might require high doses of all the substances mentioned in this article in order to find relief.
Suffice to say, if you are not yet in the degenerative stage of osteoarthritis, you’ll want to take steps now to arrest the disease in whatever stage you are in and take the appropriate natural nutrients proven to reverse the damage.
A word about inflammation … While it is true that osteoarthritis itself does not cause inflammation, your body’s reaction to the disease does. Inflammation is your body’s response to damage or injury. Thus, many arthritis remedies, both natural and pharmaceutical, contain anti-inflammatory ingredients.
So now the stage is set … The four stages of osteoarthritis have been identified and certain natural remedies have been suggested. Let’s look at each of these remedies individually to understand how they work and the supporting scientific evidence for their efficacy.
Devil’s Claw Extract
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) has been used for more than half a century in Europe for musculoskeletal pain, and during that time has become an established osteoarthritis treatment option. The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) now recommends Devil’s Claw extract for painful osteoarthritis and the relief of low back pain.
Research has shown Devil’s Claw extract to be equal to or better than ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other NSAIDS for pain relief. Most notably, this natural plant extract is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic1 and offers a safer alternative to the now “suspect” COX-2 inhibitors—such as Celebrex® or the now-defunct, Vioxx®—especially since research has found it to be equivalent to them for relieving pain.
The main active ingredient in Devil’s Claw is harpagoside, an iridoid glucoside, which is thought to produce anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, and antioxidant effects. Recent research has focused on the possibility that its antioxidant action may explain the anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic actions, but the mechanism is unclear.2
Scientific research on Devil’s Claw: Devil’s Claw works better than placebo and pain relievers for short-term relief of osteoarthritis pain. Two trials examining the effects of Devil’s Claw found strong evidence that daily doses standardized to 50 mg or 100 mg of harpagoside were better than placebo and pain relievers for short-term improvements in pain. Another trial demonstrated the equivalence of taking Devil’s Claw extract to 12.5 mg per day of rofecoxib (Vioxx)—without the side effects.3
In addition to showing that Devil’s Claw may reduce osteoarthritic pain as effectively as some conventional drugs, a double-blind, four-month study of 122 patients in France showed that patients taking the herb experienced significantly fewer adverse side effects than those taking the drug diacerhein. Most notably, the patients preferred the Devil’s Claw extract over the drug.4
Helps relieve pain from acute, subacute, and chronic osteoarthritis of the spine, hip, knee, and low back
Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada, searched several databases and other sources to identify trials testing Devil’s Claw extract in adults suffering from osteoarthritis or low back pain. They found strong evidence for the use of Devil’s Claw extract in the treatment of acute, subacute, chronic, and non-specific low-back pain.5
In a German study, 75 patients who had arthritic hips or knees took Devil’s Claw extract for 12 weeks. The physicians reported a continuous improvement in typical clinical findings such as 45.5% for pain, 35% for limitation of mobility, and 25.4% for joint crepitus (a peculiar crackling, crinkly, or grating feeling from the wearing out of cartilage). There were only two cases of possible adverse reactions reported—indigestion and a sensation of fullness. Although this was an open clinical study in which there was no other drug or remedy used, the results suggest that Devil’s Claw extract is clinically beneficial in the treatment of arthritis of the hip or knee.6
Devil’s Claw appears to be quite safe, with no evidence of toxicity at doses many times higher than recommended. In fact, a 6-month open study of 630 people with arthritis showed no side effects other than occasional mild gastrointestinal distress7
Although Devil’s Claw has been suggested for many conditions, the best evidence supports its use for the treatment of all four stages of osteoarthritis and low back pain. It provides a safer alternative to traditional pain relief medicines which have numerous long-term side effects. Most importantly, Devil’s Claw extract has been shown to provide pain relief that is equal to or better than traditional over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers. And much to the relief of everyone, it has no serious side effects when used in numerous long-term, human clinical studies.
First used in the United States to treat arthritis-like symptoms in horses and other animals, glucosamine continues to make headlines, as scientific evidence mounts that it is a powerful anti-arthritic. New double-blind medical studies confirm that it not only reduces the symptoms of osteoarthritis, but can also stop the disease dead in its tracks, and may even repair some of the damage that has already occurred.89
Glucosamine is the same substance that is naturally produced by your body and enables you to build new cartilage—the gel-like material that lines your joints and acts as a natural shock absorber. Unfortunately, as you age, you lose the ability to manufacture sufficient amounts of glucosamine, leading to stiffness of the joints and eventually to full-blown arthritis.
Glucosamine combats osteoarthritis by stimulating the manufacture of glucosamino-glycans, a natural lubricant and shock absorber, which enables your joints to move smoothly and painlessly.10 Glucosamine also promotes incorporation of sulfur into cartilage, increasing its strength and durability. In other words, glucosamine has the ability to help rebuild cartilage. This is particularly important for those in the chronic and degenerative stages of osteoarthritis.
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Inhibitory effect of curcumin, an anti-inflammatory agent, on vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation, Eur. J. Pharmacol.(Netherlands), 1992, 221/2-3, 381-384.
Amann HP, et al, Mechanism of anti-inflammatory actions of curcumine and boswellic acids, J Ethnopharmacol (Ireland) 1993 38/2-3, 113-119.
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