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Arthritis in Your Knees

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You may not have a problem with arthritis in your knees now, but if your mom or grandmother has knee pain–or you yourself do–you might want to read this.

Osteoarthritis is the wear-and-tear form of joint breakdown, as opposed to an inflammation in the joint, like rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common form of arthritis, and your chances of being affected increase as you get older. Your risks increase if arthritis runs in your family, if you’re overweight, or if you’re inactive.

Conventional treatment for arthritis (especially of the hip and knee) are, to put it charitably, unsatisfactory. The NSAID group of medications, like ibuprofen, can damage both the lining of your stomach and your kidneys. Physical therapy is OK, but sometimes the recommended routines can actually stir things up and make symptoms worse. Cortisone injections are temporary and can weaken the bone. Joint replacement works (I have a metal hip myself), but given our preferences, most of us would like to avoid surgery.

An interesting article in the December 11, 2006, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine actually gave an approving nod to alternative medicine. Working with 68 patients being treated for arthritis of the knee, the authors prescribed twice weekly massage treatments to half of them (reduced to once weekly after four weeks) and no therapy to the other half. After the allotted number of weeks, the two groups exchanged places, the “un-massaged” now receiving therapy and the others no massage. Understand this was full-body classic Swedish massage, and not just confined to the knees. Sessions were one hour long.

The results were terrific. Massaged patients reported less pain, less stiffness, better overall function, and improved mental attitude. Even after the eight weeks, both groups reported that the good benefits lasted as long as several months.

If you are persistent, you can get your health insurance company to pay for your massage. Get a prescription from your doctor. Have her re-phrase “massage” as “myofascial release therapy,” state clearly the number of sessions needed, and the duration of each session. I believe insurance companies bristle at the word “massage” because they equate it with “pleasure” and they don’t think insurance should cover anything remotely pleasurable. (This is why, say, major surgery or chemotherapy generally gets reimbursed without question.)

You can also help your arthritis using natural products (which also got a thumbs-up in this same article). I’m convinced that my own regular use of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate allowed me to postpone my surgery for ten years (click here for the product I use). Instead of the stomach-chewing anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, I also recommend CTR Support, which contains natural anti-inflammatory herbs like devil’s claw and turmeric.

I’m always cheered when a stodgy conventional medical journal has something positive to report about alternative therapies, so I thought I’d share it with you.

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