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Last updated March 24, 2017 (originally published February 28, 2015)

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors, Registered Nurses, Certified trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board.]

Osteoarthritis is a condition causing joint pain, stiffness and
loss of movement affects millions of Americans – and it can
be disabling.

Around 27 million people in America have osteoarthritis,
according to the Arthritis Foundation, which is about one in
12 of the population.

This makes osteoarthritis the most common form of arthritis.
The second most common form of arthritis is rheumatoid

With osteoarthritis the cushiony cartilage in the joints breaks
down, causing the bones to rub against each other. Severe
osteoarthritis makes it difficult to walk, sleep, and live a
normal life.

Unfortunately ,the reasons for this chronic condition are still
not fully understood. If you suffer from osteoarthritis what
can you do to ease the pain? Are there any ways to prevent

What Are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis happens when the cushion of cartilage in the
joints breaks down. The smooth surface of this tissue
becomes rough and it can deteriorate completely, resulting in
bones rubbing against each other.

While experts are not certain exactly what causes the
condition, there are certain risk factors for developing
osteoarthritis. These include older age (above 65 years),
joint overuse, joint injury in the past, obesity, and weak
thigh muscles. Women are more likely than men to develop

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of this painful condition usually develop from
a faint, annoying stiffness that grows worse over time.
Symptoms include sore or stiff joints in the knees, lower
back, and hips, which is worse after overuse of the joints or
after inactivity.

Osteoarthritis also affects the joints in the fingers and
thumb, the ankles, the neck, and even the big toe. Stiffness
after resting normally goes away once you start moving,
although the pain tends to be worse towards the end of the
day or when you have been particularly active.

Your joints may feel tender and you experience a loss of
flexibility and movement in the joint. There may also be a
grating sensation when you move the joint. In many cases
bone spurs can form - hard lumps that build up around the
affected joint.

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, studies show that
certain alternative therapies and natural remedies can help
ease pain and slow the progression of the disease.

We looked at the recent scientific research to bring you the
following natural remedies that can make a difference in
your fight against osteoarthritis:

Stop Texting to Prevent Osteoarthritis

Be careful if your child is always on the phone sending
messages to friends. A 2011 study from researchers at the
NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City shows a link
between cell phone use for texting and joint pain, which may
lead to osteoarthritis further down the line.

The study looked at 257 children aged 9 to 15 and pain was
associated with the number of text messages the children
sent, the use of text abbreviations and the keyboard type.

By the way, girls were more likely to have joint pain than

Researchers say that because cell phones are not designed
for children and do not take into account that their bones
and joints are still developing, excessive texting can injure
joints which can lead to the development of osteoarthritis.
The advice? Limit texting time for younger children.

Stop Cracking Your Knuckles to Avoid Osteoarthritis?

The popular wisdom is that cracking your knuckles will
eventually lead to arthritis. But how true is this piece of

Knuckle cracking may be irritating to other people, but a
2011 study from the Uniformed Services University of the
Health Sciences, Bethesda failed to find any link between it
and osteoarthritis. The frequency of knuckle cracking and
the duration of the habit were not correlated with the
appearance of osteoarthritis, so it appears you can continue

Stick to Low Impact Exercise for Osteoarthritis

Exercise helps to strengthen and stabilize the muscles
around your joint, making it easier to walk. It also increases
your endurance.

Losing weight through exercise decreases the stress on your
joints and lowers pain levels.

But while exercise is a good thing for people suffering from
osteoarthritis, studies show you should stick to low impact
activities. 2010 research from the University of California San
Francisco found middle-aged people taking part in high
impact exercise risk damaging their knees which leads to
osteoarthritis or a worsening of the condition.

When you exercise, stick to low impact activities if you are
not used to working out, warm up properly, and try to
maintain your exercise levels throughout the week rather
than trying to fit in one power session at the weekend.

Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASUs) are Useful for
Treating Osteoarthritis

Extracts of avocado and soybean called ASUs -
avocado/soybean unsaponifiables – have shown great
promise as an osteoarthritis treatment.

In a 2001 study from the Erasmus University Hospital of
Brussels, Belgium researchers tested 260 people with
osteoarthritis of the knee with either a placebo or ASU at a
dose of 300 mg or 600 mg a day.  

Using ASU significantly improved symptoms of knee

These early results were confirmed by a 2015 study, which
looked at all other existing studies in this area, led by Dr.
Blaine Christensen from the University of California-Davis.

Acupuncture as an Osteoarthritis Treatment

Acupuncture is often cited as an effective treatment for
osteoarthritis but the evidence is somewhat mixed.

A 2006 analysis of eight trials by White A, Foster N,
Cummings M, et al concluded that acupuncture was an
effective treatment for osteoarthritis, but a 2006 trial by the
University of Heidelberg, Germany showed no difference
between real acupuncture and fake acupuncture – both
produced good results as an arthritis treatment.

Use Comfrey Cream to Treat Osteoarthritis

A cream containing an extract of the herb comfrey proved to
reduce symptoms of knee osteoarthritis more significantly
than placebo in a 2006 study from Merck Selbstmedikation
GmbH, Germany. The study looked at 220 people over a
three-week period. {However, read more about some of the
side effects of comfrey.)

Treat Osteoarthritis with Cetylated Fatty Acids

A naturally occurring fatty acid called "cetylated fatty acid"
(CFA) is beingtouted as an osteoarthritis treatment – both as
a cream and an orally taken supplement.

In a 2004 study by the University of Connecticut at Storrs,
40 people with knee osteoarthritis applied a cetylated fatty
acid cream or placebo cream to the knee joint.

The people in the study were aged 62 to 64 and had a
median body weight of approximately 85 kilograms (with the
heaviest weighing 20 kilograms more and the smallest
weighing 20 kilograms less).

The people using the fatty acid cream reported significantly
greater improvements in range of movement and function
than those using the placebo cream. Moreover, those who
used the cream twice a day saw improvements in their ability
to climb stairs, rise from a chair and walk. They had
improved balance, strength and endurance .

Other studies by the same group of doctors from
Connecticut have confirmed the effectiveness of cetylated
fatty acids (CFA) creams for joint pain, especially joint pain
in arthritic knees. About 58% of the patients in these studies
reported improvement in knee flexion and swelling, though
most still experienced morning stiffness. In all of these
studies, the participants took 350 mg of CFA orally (6 times
a day) or by application of creams twice a day.

A word of caution is in order about cetylated fatty acid
creams. One of the doctors in the group, Dr. Robert Hesslink
appears to have a side commercial interest in a product made
from cetylated fatty acid, called "Celadrin".  

We would like to see more studies from doctors from other
universities before we can give this type of cream our
unqualified thumbs up. On the other hand, we have found
no studies that have established any side effects or known
toxicities from the use of the cream.


Glucosamine --The Gold Standard in Osteoarthritis?

The most widely studied supplement for osteoarthritis
treatment is glucosamine. Glucosamine occurs naturally in
high quanitities in your cartilage between your bones, in the
discs and synovial between the vertebrae of your back.

So, yes, glucosamine is natural. But to make it into a
supplement, laboratory scientists stabilize glucosamine by
turning it into either "glucosamine sulfate" or "glucosamine

Keep those two forms of glucosamine in mind because
scientists have split over which is effective. Currently,
glucosamine is approved as a treatment for osteoarthritis in
Europe. Both the Osteoarthritis Research Society
International and The European League Against Rheumatism
have recommended glucosamine for use in treating knee and
hip osteoarthritis. Now, the only form of glucosamine
approved in Europe as a treatment is glucosamine sulfate --
not glucosamine hydrochloride.

In the US and in the UK, neither the American College of
Rheumatology nor the UK National Institute for Health and
Clinical Excellence have recommended glucosamine for the
treatment of osteoarthritis. However, the US Food and Drug
Administration allows glucosamine sulfate's use as an over-
the-counter supplement.

Two things should be borne in mind if you are considering
using glucosamine. First, if you have shellfish allergies, you
may be allergic to it because glucosamine is extracted from a
shellfish. Second, glucosamine sulfate is a salt and can
provide up to 30% of your daily salt limit. That means that
you can easily exceed your salt levels and elevate your
blood pressure.

What About Omega-3 Fatty Acids-- Do They Help

Many studies have associated intake of omega-3 fatty acids,
whether by eating oil fish or by taking fish oil or krill oil pills
with decreased inflammation of joints. However, all of these
studies have examined rheumatoid arthritis, not

Many people, including some of our editors, regularly use
krill oil and report great improvements in joint pain after use.
However, we will need to see studies focusing specifically on
osteoarthritis before we can make the leap to recommend
fish or krill oil for this condition.

Green-lipped Mussels Help Relieve Arthritis Pain

The green-lipped mussel has been long studied for its ability
to relieve various kinds of pain. A 2013 study from the
University of Montreal, Department of Veterinary Medicine in
Quebec has found that dogs, whose diets were enriched
with green-lipped mussels for 90 days, were able to jump
higher and x-rays of their joint showed that they had fewer
osteoarthritic lesions.

Lose Weight to Relieve Stress on Osteoarthritis Joints

Obesity is one of the risk factors for knee osteoarthritis.
Being too heavy puts women even more at risk for knee
arthritis than men, according to a 1990 results of the 35-
year Framingham Knee Osteoarthritis Study.

Eat Cherries to Relieve Arthritis Pain

Cherries contain compounds which reduce the levels of
inflammation generally throughout your body and are
particularly effective against the inflammation of arthritis. In
2003, a team of scientists from the US Department of
Agriculture led by Dr. Robert A. Jacob fed 10 healthy
volunteers a bowl of 45 fresh Bing cherries for breakfast.

Before the experiment, the scientists measured 4 well-known
markers of inflammation such as levels of uric acid (these go
up when you have gout, a painful form of arthritis), C-
reactive protein, nitrous oxide (these two go up when you
have inflammation), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (this
goes up when you have tumors).

Just five hours after eating the cherries, the volunteers saw
their levels of three out of four these inflammatory markers
decline significantly. The only marker that did not decrease
was tumor necrosis factor alpha.

[The author thanks her colleague, Susan Callahan, for
updates to this article, including her contributions about
glucosamine and omega-3.]

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