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What Are the Different Alternative Treatments for Osteoarthritis?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Alternative treatments for osteoarthritis include acupuncture and dietary supplements. Osteoarthritis can cause pain, stiffness, and joint inflammation, and is typically more common with age. Traditional treatments for osteoarthritis include anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin, corticosteroids, and weight management. Although certain alternative treatments for osteoarthritis may help reduce symptoms, the health care provider needs to be notified before beginning treatment with an alternative modality.

Acupuncture, which uses thin needles to alter various pressure points in the body might help promote mobility and reduce pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis. Long used in many varieties of alternative medicine, acupuncture has now found its way into mainstream medicine, often being recommended by respected physicians and health care practitioners. In addition to relieving pain and restoring mobility, acupuncture may promote relaxation in those experiencing pain, which can help people perceive pain in a different way, making it more manageable.

Capsaicin creams are also showing promise as alternative treatments for osteoarthritis. Preparations containing capsaicin may help ward off pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and other painful conditions of the joints, muscles, and bones. Capsaicin is the hot and spicy substance that is found in hot peppers, most notably, chili peppers. Applying capsaicin creams and patches to the skin may cause irritation, redness, and burning. These side effects are usually mild and temporary, and will resolve after the preparation is discontinued.

Dietary supplements are perhaps the most popular alternative treatments for osteoarthritis. Supplements containing chondroitin and glucosamine are commonly recommended for joint pain and inflammation because they possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, fish oil supplements have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain caused by arthritic conditions as well. Fish oil should be taken with caution, however, because it can enhance the effect of anticoagulant medications and cause unusual or prolonged bleeding. The health care provider needs to be consulted before beginning therapy with dietary supplements.

Some people have found that magnet therapy relieves pain and restores joint mobility. It is said that wearing a magnet bracelet on or near the affected area may help reduce swelling and may be just as effective as anti-inflammatory medication. How this works is unclear, though patients who find relief from magnets may be experiencing a placebo effect. Wearing a magnetic bracelet has no known side effects except for perhaps irritation from the metal.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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