According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), researchers have found little conclusive evidence that dietary supplements, including Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO), or Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and various herbal remedies, help with OA symptoms or the underlying course of the disease.
However, The Arthritis Foundation offers a “Supplement and Herb Guide” with the pros and cons of each as well as the scientific studies behind the information. Click on the links below:
- Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables. A natural vegetable extract made from avocado and soybean oils.
- Black Currant Oil. Black currant seed oil is obtained from seeds of the black currant.
- Borage Oil. Oil from the seeds of the borage plant.
- Boswellia. Also known as Indian Frankincense
- Bromelain. Group of enzymes found in pineapple that break down protein.
- Capsaicin. The highly purified, heat-producing component found in chili peppers.
- Cat’s Claw. Dried root bark of a woody vine that grows in the Amazon rain forests.
- Chondroitin Sulfate. A component of human connective tissues found in cartilage and bone.
- Devil’s Claw. A traditional herb used in South Africa.
- DHEA. An androgen steroid hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands.
- DMSO. A colorless, sulfur-containing organic by-product of wood pulp processing.
- Evening Primrose. The seeds of a wildflower, containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
- Fish Oil. Oil from cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut and cod.
- Flaxseed. Seed of the flax plant, containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Ginger. The dried or fresh root of the ginger plant.
- Ginkgo. Leaf of the ginkgo biloba tree, native to East Asia.
- GLA. Omega-6 fatty acid in evening primrose, black currant and borage oils.
- Glucosamine. Major component of joint cartilage; derived from the shells of shellfish.
- Green-lipped Mussel. The New Zealand mussels are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Indian Frankincense. Gum resin from the bark of the Boswellia tree found in India.
- Melatonin. A hormone produced by the pineal gland.
- MSM. Organic sulfur compound found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.
- Pine Bark. The extract made from the bark of the French maritime pine tree.
- Rose Hips. Made from the seed pods of roses.
- Sam-e. A naturally occurring chemical in the body.
- St. John’s Wort. The St. John’s wort plant is native to Europe and grows wild in the U.S.
- Stinging Nettle. A stalk-like plant found in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
- Thunder God Vine. Root of a vine-like plant from Asia.
- Turmeric. A yellow powder ground from the roots of the lily-like turmeric plant.
- Valerian. The dried root of the perennial herb valerian.
If you are taking any supplements, tell your doctor.
There are a few complementary treatment options have been shown to be effective for relieving OA symptoms. These are:
Acupuncture A trial of a large number of patients with chronic pain due to OA of the knee or hip, done at the University Medical Center in Berlin and published in the November 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, found that for patients who were receiving routine primary care, the addition of acupuncture to the treatment regimen resulted in a “clinically relevant and persistent benefit”. Each patient was followed for a total of six months and the control group received acupuncture during the last three months of their study period. The Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) and a health-related quality of life survey (Short Form 36) were used to measure outcomes when the study began and at three and six months. “Patients with chronic pain due to OA of the knee or the hip who were treated with acupuncture in addition to routine care showed significant improvements in symptoms and quality of life compared with patients who received routine care alone,” the authors state.
Swedish Massage According to the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, a multi-university study published in February 2012 in PLoS One found that a 60-minute “dose” of Swedish massage therapy delivered once a week for pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee was both optimal and practical. The team randomly assigned 125 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee to receive one of four 8-week doses of Swedish massage (30 or 60 minutes weekly or twice weekly) or usual care. At 8 weeks, participants in the 60-minute massage group had significant improvements in pain, function, and global response compared with participants in the 30-minute group and the usual care group.
Tai Chi Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine determined that patients over 65 years of age with knee osteoarthritis who engage in regular Tai Chi exercise improve physical function and experience less pain. This traditional style of Chinese martial arts features slow, rhythmic movements to induce mental relaxation and enhance balance, strength, flexibility, and self-efficacy. The findings were published in the November 2009 issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology. At the end of the 12-week period, patients practicing Tai Chi exhibited a significant decrease in knee pain compared with those in the control group. Using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain scale, researchers noted a –118.80 reduction in pain from baseline between the Tai Chi and control group. Researchers also observed improved physical function, self-efficacy, depression, and health status for knee OA in subjects in the Tai Chi group.
Hydrotherapy The Arthritis Foundation reports that a research team in Australia recruited 152 sedentary people with painful hip and/or knee OA to participate in a trial that would determine whether water exercise would alleviate their pain and improve their function. Marlene Fransen, MPH, PhD, the study’s lead investigator, concludes “This study demonstrated that access to 12 weeks of intensive water exercise classes . . . for fairly sedentary older individuals over 59 years of age with chronic symptomatic knee or hip OA resulted in clinical benefits that were sustained a further 12 weeks.”