The Medical Approach to Arthritis is Expensive and IneffectiveArthroscopic knee surgery is the most commonly performed orthopedic surgery in the United States. During it, small incisions are made around the joint so that a tiny camera and small instruments can be inserted to view and correct identified problems. Though a popular treatment for arthritis, it’s also proven to be ineffective. A recent report published in the BMJ reviewed 13 separate studies involving 1,700 total patients who had arthroscopic surgery to relieve arthritis and pain in their knees. Findings were bleak to say the least. Of those 1,700 patients, only 15% of them reported feeling an improvement in pain and functioning three months after surgery. Even worse, those improvements disappeared after 12 months. Now is a good time to again point out that $81 billion is spent annually on arthritis-related pain and that arthroscopic knee surgery is the most commonly performed orthopedic surgery. Why are we spending all this time and money on something that’s not working? This is why I stress the importance of finding more natural remedies for arthritis. Going under the knife (or in this case, the knife going into you) is not only more expensive but also ineffective for treating your arthritis pain.
Natural Remedies to Ease Your ArthritisWhen you are trying to relieve arthritis pain, what you’re really fighting is inflammation. By reducing and reversing inflammation, your body as a whole is more flexible and more comfortable. There are plenty of natural supplements that fight inflammation safely and effectively. Three supplements in particular—boswellia, curcumin, and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA)—are not only proven inflammation fighters but offer other health benefits as well. I do not encourage you to begin talking all of these at once. Talk with your doctor about which ones are the right fit for you.
- Boswellia: For centuries, extracts of the Boswellia serrata tree have been used as pain-relieving medicine, especially for osteoarthritis. I recommend taking 500 mg twice a day.
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid: Omega-3 is a proven anti-inflammatory. As such, it can reverse inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Other health benefits of omega-3 include reducing high blood pressure, protecting and fortifying the immune system, protecting against certain types of cancer, enhancing memory, focus, and attention, and more. Take 3,000 mg of omega-3 daily.
- Curcumin: Curcumin’s anti-inflammation powers make it beneficial for overall health. Research shows that it eases pain in joints. Others studies have shown that curcumin can also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, improve circulation, slow the effects of aging, help detox your body, protect against cognitive disorders (i.e. Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s), and support health kidney and liver function. I recommend taking 500 mg of curcumin up to three times daily.
More Gain, Less PainPardon the spin on the old exercise adage, “No Pain, No Gain.” But in all seriousness, the more exercise gains you make, the less arthritic pain you’ll feel in your joints. I know, exercise might feel like the last thing you want to do if you suffer from arthritis. Your joints are trembling at the thought, perhaps. How exercise combats arthritis is quite simple. Exercise strengthens your bones and the muscles surrounding your joints. More support and strength means less pain. The lack of exercise does the opposite, which creates stress and inflammation in your joints. Now, I’m not expecting you to get up and start running races. But the first step is getting up. The second step is finding a safe and comfortable set of exercises. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist about which exercises work best for you based on your age, weight, heart health and other factors. Assuming you have moderate arthritic pain, you’ll want to start with low-intensity, low-impact exercises that are easy on your joints—walking, bicycling, swimming, or using an elliptical machine. A good goal to work up to is 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise. Divided up between 7 days, that’s only about 20 minutes a day. And you can even divide those 20-minute workouts into 10-minute blocks if that is easier on your joints. Like the above-mentioned natural supplements, exercise not only fights pain and inflammation but also:
- Strengthens the muscles around your joints
- Helps you maintain bone strength
- Gives you more energy to get through the day
- Helps you get a good night’s sleep
- Helps you control your weight
- Enhances your quality of life
- Improves your balance
Speaking to You as a Patient, Not a DoctorSix years ago, a sports-related injury caused severe damage to my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of four ligaments connecting the knee joint. Believe me, surgery was the last thing I wanted to do, but the injury was too severe and my knee needed major repair. That, and my doctors were pleading with me! The surgery itself went well and my doctors told me to take it easy for the next several weeks to allow for recovery. But when I was cleared to exercise again, I didn’t. My excuses were typical. “Tough day at work.” “My schedule is too busy.” “I’ll exercise when I have the time.” “My knee hurts too much today.” Being a doctor, I knew this line of thinking was wrong. This is a good example of how pain affects you physically and mentally. My wake-up call came in the form of an inspiring patient who lost nearly 40 pounds between visits. She credited my health advice as the reason she lost so much weight. I soon began walking through my office building between appointments. Those short strolls lasted only a few minutes each, but it was a start. I gradually added more walking and exercises to my daily routine to the point where the pain in my knee disappeared. I understand what searing joint pain is not because I’m a doctor, but because I’ve been there myself. But because I’m a doctor, I know that I would still be dealing with knee pain if I did not treat it with exercise.
- Rodriguez, Carmen Heredia. “Arthroscopic Surgery Doesn't Help with Arthritis Knee Pain.” NPR. Published May 11, 2017.
- “Improving the Quality of Life for People with Arthritis.” Centers for Disease Control. Last updated March 6, 2017.