Try SAMe (S-Adenyl-L-Methionine)
iStock/Tarek El Sombati
You're probably most familiar with this supplement for mild depression. But it also works well for osteoarthritis, likely because of its anti-inflammatory properties. An analysis of 11 studies involving 1,442 people found that it worked as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen in terms of reducing pain and improving function, with fewer adverse effects such as stomach problems. Take 600 to 800 milligrams, and take it along with a B-50-complex vitamin.
Going au naturel reduces the load on knee joints, minimizing pain and disability from osteoarthritis by 12 percent compared to walking with shoes. That's the finding from a study of 75 people with osteoarthritis conducted by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. If barefoot isn't an option, find shoes that mimic the natural arch and heel contour, but don't lift up the heel, which puts more pressure on the joints. Orthotics might be another option.
Rub On Some Cream
If your stomach has rebelled against over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers, attack the pain at its source with capsaicin cream. The cream contains high levels of the same compound that gives hot peppers their bite, and works by depleting a chemical called substance P that contributes to pain perception. But be patient; you may need to apply it several times a day for a week to 10 days before you feel any relief.
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Opt for Devil's Claw
Another anti-inflammatory herb, Devil's Claw significantly improves pain and other symptoms related to arthritis, with some studies showing that it works just as well as prescription drugs, but with fewer side effects. Take 2.6 grams a day of an extract standardized to 3 percent iridoid glycosides in divided dosages.
Get in the Pool
Swimming has long been recommended as a good exercise for people with arthritis; the weightlessness from the water reduces impact on your joints. But there's been very little research into the benefits of this therapy. Finally, a Taiwanese study confirms what anyone with arthritis has long suspected: working out in water significantly improves knee and hip flexibility, strength, and aerobic fitness. Meanwhile, an Australian study found that such programs also resulted in less pain and better overall function. Contact your local health club, hospital or swimming pool and ask about water aerobics classes or other classes specifically designed for people with arthritis.
Brew a Cup of Tea
Researchers have long known that tea is rich in flavonoids, a class of phytochemicals known for its antioxidant properties. Some studies have shown that regular tea drinkers are up to 50 percent less likely to develop certain types of cancer compared with nontea drinkers, while other studies have found that regular tea drinkers have a lower risk of stroke and heart disease. Evidence also suggests that diets rich in antioxidants can help keep osteoarthritis from worsening.
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Supplement with Boswellia
The anti-inflammatory herb Boswellia serrata, also known as frankincense, comes from the Boswellia tree, commonly found in India. In one study, 30 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee took the extract for eight weeks, then took a placebo for eight weeks (although neither they nor the researchers knew what the participants received). When taking the herb, participants had less knee pain, greater range of motion, and could walk farther than when taking the placebo.