Treatment for severe arthritis

Physical Activity

Even though you may not feel like doing it, exercise is the best thing you can do to relieve arthritis pain and lessen joint damage. Exercise can also help you lose weight. That will put less stress on your joints. You should try to get exercise in these three categories:

Stretching : These are exercises to increase your flexibility and range of motion and lubricate your joints. Your doctor may prescribe specific stretching exercises. Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi classes are other good ways to get your stretching in.

Strength training : This will build muscle and can protect your joints from injury. Exercises could involve lifting weights or simply using your own body weight (like doing push-ups or sit-ups).

Aerobics : These exercises will strengthen your heart and lungs, cut down on fatigue, and increase your stamina. You will also burn a lot of calories. Typical aerobic exercises include walking, running, riding a bicycle, swimming, or using a treadmill.

The Arthritis Foundation says the two best exercises for people with arthritis are walking and water aerobics. Both are easy on the joints and good for those who are overweight or just starting to exercise. They improve heart health and physical conditioning. You don’t need to know how to swim to do water aerobics. They’re done in a swimming pool in shoulder-height water.

16 Arthritis Treatment Options, Explained

While physical therapy can offer significant benefits for many people with arthritis, it’s not effective for everyone. If it’s recommended as part of your treatment, give it a try for at least three to six months. If you don’t see any improvement in that time, physical therapy simply may not be useful for your individual case of arthritis.

More Approaches to Fight the Joint Pain of Arthritis

Taking medication isn’t the only way to treat arthritis pain. Other options include:

  • Hot and cold therapy. Although it’s only a temporary fix, applying heat and ice packs to arthritic joints can ease inflammation and pain.
  • Weight loss. Being overweight adds extra stress to your damaged joints. Losing weight can help relieve some of that pressure, which lessens the pain. “In many ways, diet, exercise, physical therapy, weight loss, and other non-pharmaceutical therapeutics for OA may be more effective over the long-term than medication alone,” says Dr. Husa. Ask your health care team if it’s safe for you to start a new exercise or diet routine, and the best ways to get started, he says.
  • Braces. Supporting your arthritic joint with a brace or splint can give it the extra strength it needs to work properly. But these assistive devices offer temporary support and relief — they shouldn’t be used all the time.
  • Chiropractic adjustments. Though not always recommended or found to be effective, manipulating some joints affected by osteoarthritis can help some people feel less pain and stiffness.
  • Exercise. This is an extremely effective pain management method for people with osteoarthritis. It’s perfectly safe to exercise with arthritis, and as an added benefit, it can improve joint health and function. Keenan suggests people try non- or low-impact activities like swimming, yoga, and light strength-training.
  • TENS. Known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, TENS is a procedure that uses light electrical pulses to change the way pain is felt.
  • Surgery. While often an effective remedy, surgery is typically recommended for severe cases of arthritis in which damaged joints don’t respond to other treatments.
  • Newer arthritis treatments. Biologic medications, which normally are given by injection or infusion, are great advances in rheumatoid arthritis treatment (though they’re not for osteoarthritis). Now the first oral biologic drug for rheumatoid arthritis, Xeljanz (tofacitinib citrate), is available. According to one study published in a 2014 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, tofacitinib was better at slowing joint damage and lessening RA symptoms than the current mainstay treatment, methotrexate.

There are many arthritis treatment options available to you to help manage your pain, so don’t despair — you don’t have to muddle through without relief. Just keep in mind that you may need to try a few different therapies before you figure out which arthritis treatments work best for you.

Arthritis of the Wrist and Hand: Management and Treatment

What are the non-surgical treatments for arthritis?

Osteoarthritis: First-line treatments for osteoarthritis include:

  • Cutting back, stopping, or adapting the activities that are causing pain
  • Splinting the affected joint for short periods of time. Splinting keeps the joint still, which helps reduce pain.
  • Applying heat/ice to reduce pain and swelling
  • Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen (Advil®/Motrin®) to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Injecting joints with a cortisone preparation to relieve symptoms for a period of time. In some cases, these injections may be repeated.
  • Exercising the joints – gently – through the full range of motion on a daily basis. You may need to see a hand therapist.

Unfortunately, there are no known medications or other treatments that can slow the loss of cartilage or make new cartilage.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes many of the same treatments used for osteoarthritis; however, these measures alone are not enough. It is now understood that the treatment must also include medications that can not only help symptoms but also slow the progression (advance) of disease. These drugs include disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate and newer biologic agents. Oral glucocorticoids, such as prednisone, can be used to help reduce symptoms, but they do not appear to be disease-modifying. Also, the risks of glucocorticoids tend to outweigh the benefits.

What are the surgical treatment options for arthritis of the wrist and hand?

Surgery is considered when treatments, such as those mentioned above, no longer relieve the pain, or when deformity keeps the patient from being able to use his or her hand. Deformity, loss of motion, and pain that is not adequately controlled are the main reasons for surgery.

Surgical options include a variety of reconstructive procedures, as well as joint fusion:

  • Reconstructive surgery for osteoarthritis in the base of the thumb is commonly performed and highly effective. The procedure involves removing one of the arthritic bones and replacing it with a piece of rolled-up tendon from the forearm (the part of the arm between the wrist and elbow) of the same arm. This procedure provides excellent pain relief, allows a good range of motion, and restores function to the thumb.
  • Joint fusion (also called arthrodesis) is used to treat arthritis in many hand and wrist joints. For example, the joint at the tip of the finger is frequently affected by osteoarthritis. Fusing this joint with the joint below it stabilizes and straightens the joint, which eliminates pain. However, the joint is no longer able to be bent.
  • Joint replacement in the hand is recommended for “low-demand” patients, especially those with rheumatoid arthritis involving the joints at the base of the fingers. In these patients, joint replacements may improve the range of motion, making the fingers more useful. Pain is improved, as is use of the hand. However, these artificial hand joints do not provide the same stability as joint fusion and will, in time, wear down.

While arthritis in the hands and wrists is common and can be a painful and functionally limiting disorder, many treatments are available to reduce symptoms and help patients. Newer medications for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis have led to a major reduction in the severe hand deformities that these diseases, when untreated, can cause. Surgical treatments for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can provide pain relief and allow patients to return to many of the activities they enjoy.

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7 Home Remedies for Arthritis… But Only One Works

Jennifer Freeman, MD

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) in 2008 from UT Health San Antonio, Surgeon at TRACC Dallas

Feb 8, 2019 10 min read

Arthritis is a common disease affecting millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of new cases are identified each year in the United States.

Jump to the 1 that Works

  1. Cinnamon
  2. Willow Bark
  3. Black Pepper
  4. Green Tea
  5. Ginger
  6. Garlic
  7. Lab Grade Organic Turmeric & Boswellia Serrata

When you are suffering from arthritis, it quickly becomes clear that it’s not just joints that are affected. RA can also cause severe fatigue, fevers, weight loss, anemia, in addition to causing additional problems throughout the major organs (like lungs, heart and kidneys). Sufferers often experience dry mouth, dry eyes, shortness of breath, damaged nerves, malaise, and small skin lumps, just to name a few.

So, how do you get relief? If you would prefer not to take prescription medications nor undergo surgery, there are several natural home remedies that have some reported rates of success in treating symptoms of RA. Want to know what’s so great about these methods, in addition to getting some relief from your symptoms? The products used in these natural remedies are very easy to find. The following seven treatments are the most common homeopathic remedies. Bear in mind that response to these remedies will be different for each individual as the disease presents and progresses differently in each individual. Make sure to discuss with your doctor any home remedies that you are considering as they may interact with your body and prescription medications in ways that you did not realize.

Jump to the One that Works

  1. Cinnamon
  2. Willow Bark
  3. Black Pepper
  4. Green Tea
  5. Ginger
  6. Garlic
  7. Lab Grade Organic Turmeric & Boswellia Serrata

Which ones are the best and which ones are just so-so? We’ve researched them, tested them, and have the results below. Before we go in depth, let’s cover the basics.

Why Do I Have RA?

What is causing your joint pain? RA is an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders result from your immune system mistaking your normal cells for foreign cells and attacking/destroying them. When your immune system attacks the lining of the membrane surrounding your joints (synovium), inflammation occurs. The constant inflammation of the synovium thickens the membrane lining and wears away the cartilage and bone in your joints, causing the physical pain you experience.

The tricky thing about RA is that doctors are still unsure of what the underlying cause is. While genetics seem to be a contributing factor, the baffling mystery is that the majority of people suffering from RA have no family history of it.

What other risk factors may increase your likelihood of experiencing RA?

* Gender: Women are much more likely to suffer from this autoimmune disorder.
* Weight: Overweight individuals are more prone to developing RA.
* Smoking: If you smoke, you are more likely to develop RA, and if you develop it, your symptoms may be more pronounced than those who do not smoke.
* Age: RA is more likely to hit you in middle age (40 to 60)
* Environment: Certain environmental exposures have been found to elevate your risk of RA, including exposure to asbestos and silica.

What Are the Symptoms?

RA sufferers are familiar with the severity of the pain associated with stiff and sore joints. Some describe it as having sprained all the joints in their bodies at once. Now imagine that with simultaneous fatigue, appetite loss, and feeling feverish, and you can easily envision how they are apt to feel downright lousy. Then to add insult to injury, some suffer through those episodes it for years and years. The most common signs and symptoms are:

* Swollen joints
* Tender joints
* Pain and stiffness in the joints, especially after periods of inactivity (e.g., in the morning)
* Extreme fatigue
* Weight loss
* Fever

Even though RA is not life threatening, you will feel pretty miserable. And that’s no way to live your life. You’ll be searching for relief and relief that works.

Alternate Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

More and more people are moving toward homeopathic treatments instead of relying on overpriced prescription medications and costly surgeries – many of which individuals, especially those without insurance, cannot afford. Not only that, many people are becoming wary of putting so many manufactured chemicals in their bodies on a regular basis. It seems like everything we ingest nowadays is somehow engineered instead of natural. Perhaps returning to nature is a better alternative than the usual go-to treatments. We’ll discuss the use and effectiveness of seven natural remedies for RA. We’ll also share what our research has found as far as success rates go.

1. Cinnamon

Proponents of cinnamon in alleviating symptoms of RA contribute its healing powers to the anti-inflammatory qualities of cinnamon bark. In addition, cinnamon is noted to help with aches and pains, especially when they are worse with cold or cold weather.

The Problem? Cinnamon in large doses can be detrimental to your health. In addition, cinnamon has been found to have potential harmful effects to pregnant women and may negatively react with your body’s natural blood clotting as well as interacts with any blood thinning medications you are taking.

The Verdict? Essentially, the major problem with cinnamon is the dosage. You need a high enough dose to counteract the symptoms of RA, but not so high that you harm your health. Results of our research show that there has been limited success in the use of cinnamon to treat RA. Getting the quantity right is just too cumbersome with this natural remedy.

2. Willow Bark

Willow bark, as the name quite literally says, is the bark off of willow trees. This bark has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties which assist with pain relief. In fact, it has very similar qualities to everyday aspirin.

The Problem? The active ingredient in willow bark, a chemical called salicin, can be fatal in large doses, as it shuts down the kidneys. Fun fact of the day: salicin overdose is what killed Beethoven.

The Verdict? Research is 50/50 with willow bark. While it has shown to help reduce fevers, muscle aches, and stiff joints, getting the dosage right is, like cinnamon, is pretty tricky.

3. Black Pepper

It’s making me sneeze just thinking about it. Black pepper has long been known to aid in pain relief and swelling reduction. You may have heard of capsaicin? Well, that’s the key ingredient in black pepper that’s thought to give RA relief. Capsaicin appears in many over the counter creams and lotions – most often associated with anti-inflammatory medications.

The Problem? As is typical of most creams and lotions, the relief is only temporary and needs to be used frequently to maintain pain relief.

The Verdict? Our studies have shown some positive effects of black pepper in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Keep in mind that since the most common application is through the use of creams and lotions, the relief is only temporary and needs to be used frequently to maintain pain relief.

4. Green Tea

The polyphenols in green tea are known for their joint-protecting and anti-inflammatory properties. But, it’s not just the polyphenols that are thought to help out RA sufferers. It’s really the antioxidants found in the polyphenols which are thought to suppress the immune system.

The Problem? While green tea has shown positive effects on inflammation and immune system disorders, the vast majority of the evidence has been shown only in animal studies.

The Verdict? We’ll hold out for more concrete results on humans. In the meantime, enjoy a cup of green tea – it won’t hurt anything. Though, we’re not yet convinced you are able to drink enough of it to get continuous adequate RA relief. You might float away first.

5. Garlic

Garlic is a tasty addition to many meals and a potential source of relief for RA as an anti-inflammatory agent. What’s thought to aid relief when bringing garlic into the picture? Garlic helps to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and if inflammation is prevented, the progression of arthritic joints and the resultant symptoms will be reduced.

The Problem? Once cooked, garlic loses most of its punch. And, let’s face it, how many people do you know that go around eating a bunch of raw garlic?

The Verdict? If you’re adventurous enough (and hate your taste buds), you can try raw garlic. But, we definitely don’t think it’s the best idea.

6. Ginger

Ginger has been known to be helpful for a lot of things, especially nausea. What’s the one thing your mom whipped out every time you were feeling sick to your stomach when you were little? Ginger ale. Go figure. It’s also been shown to help alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women, and it’s noted to have anti-inflammatory qualities to alleviate arthritis symptoms. Elements in ginger have been found to reduce the action of T cells, which are those cells which are going around attacking your healthy cells. The overall result is a decrease in systemic inflammation.

The Problem? The dose needed to benefit from decreased systemic inflammation is unclear. (Are you noticing a theme yet?)

The Verdict? As with most of these home remedies, the quantity is what’s going to be holding you back from true relief.

So, What’s the Overarching Verdict So Far?

Ambivalent at best. It will be very difficult and time consuming to eat enough ginger, green tea, black pepper, etc. to truly alleviate your RA symptoms in the most optimal way. By the time you ate enough cinnamon (or any of the other herbs and spices mentioned above) stiff joints might not be your only concern anymore. So, now what?

7. Lab Grade Turmeric + Lab Grade Boswellia Serrata
The combination of these trusted remedies is a ONE-TWO PUNCH

You’ve probably used turmeric while cooking before – it’s a yellow spice that most people associate with curry dishes. Know what it reminds RA sufferers of? Relief. It’s true that turmeric is another anti-inflammatory agent. But, what makes this remedy a little different is that you’re not just ingesting turmeric. It’s the lab grade organic turmeric CO2 extraction that is the key player here. We’re talking about the extraction of pure turmeric into a pill or oil form.

Know what’s great about this? You don’t have to worry about the dosage of eating a bunch of curry. You can take a pill or rub some oil that has the optimal dose for relief of your RA pain. In its un-extracted form, we’re talking about the spice, the herb. The same thing you flavor your dishes with. And, truthfully, in this capacity, it probably has similar effectiveness to the other six natural remedies mentioned above. With CO2 extraction though, you’re extracting the most pure form of turmeric (i.e., no fillers), to aid in your relief.

What’s the benefit of extraction? It preserves the valuable antioxidants found in the turmeric. In addition, CO2 offers a clean form of extraction, free from solvents. With this method, there are no additives, no fillers, and no artificial ingredients. To make it even more interesting, you can opt to supplement with a natural additive which will optimize your RA relief two-fold: boswellia serrata.

Boswellia Serrata is the plant that produces frankincense. The most useful parts are found in the resin or sap from the plant. The resin of frankincense is an anti-inflammatory agent. When you combine lab grade organic turmeric extracted through CO2 methods with bosellia serrata, you’re giving your RA a one-two punch in the way of relief.

Where to Buy Lab Grade Products

There are a lot of extremely inferior products on the market. Still worse, many of the cheap herbal supplements found in and on the shelves of local drugstores are not inspected by third party regulators with FDA oversight. The majority are selling weakly concentrated ingredients, and there is growing concern that many products are testing in the danger zone for toxic chemicals and fillers.

Below are two companies that we’ve tested and found to produce lab grade turmeric and boswellia serrata. Their cost is higher due to the quality of ingredients and their strict self-imposed testing standards. Still, the cost is small compared to prices of pharmaceuticals.


This is a fully US produced, organic product with the highest concentration of lab grade turmeric and boswellia serrata that we’ve found. The combo package is produced in the US in a certified GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) facility, which means it has FDA oversight and the ingredients have been third party tested to verify they are exactly what they claim to be. Offers a no hassle, money back guarantee. We don’t believe it’s available in any stores and only available on their website:

Buy at

Holistic Health

This is a Japanese manufacturer who produces quality lab grade turmeric and boswellia serrata products. Each product must be purchased separately and taken at the same time. We recommend taking both supplements daily unless you have a history of issues with either herb or are currently taking blood thinners. Certainly talk with your doctor if you have any concerns or questions. Also only available for purchase from their website:

Buy at

Have other products that you’ve found to be highly effective? Please contact us! We’ll review them, have them tested by our university researchers, and add them to the list if they are lab grade and free of toxins or other harmful fillers.

How to Treat Arthritis Pain Without Medication

What is arthritis?

Arthritis can sometimes serve as a bit of an umbrella term. It is used to describe over 100 different types of joint pain and joint disease experienced by millions of people. It is true that arthritis seems to favor the elderly, as it becomes more apparent in people as they age; however, it is possible for people to experience arthritis in their early middle age.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, it actually has a higher probability of affecting elite male athletes than the rest of the general public. It states that about 30 percent of elite male athletes who engage in contact sports will develop arthritis in the knees and hips, due to the wear and tear that the overexertion has on their joints. They are also more likely to be at risk for arthritis later in life.

What can I do?

A common treatment for arthritis is medication, usually for pain manageability. Your physician may prescribe NSAID pain relievers, corticosteroids, antirheumatic drugs, or antibiotics for your arthritis treatment. Medication is easy – you pop it in your mouth, chase it with water, and your pain subsides shortly afterward. However, they can also cause some unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they can be habit-forming. With NSAIDs, you run the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. With corticosteroids, you run the risk of cataracts, high blood sugar levels, and bone loss. Luckily, there is a much safer and healthier alternative to treating arthritis: physical therapy.

If you believe you may be experiencing arthritic pain, and you’re looking for relief without the harmful risk of drugs, call us today. We’ll set you up with a physical therapist who can help you kick the meds and reduce your arthritis symptoms!

The different types of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis. It is caused by a reduction in joint cartilage through the “wear and tear” one experiences with age. This process of wearing down cartilage causes bones to rub together, which leads to pain and swelling. Physical therapy can often help to reduce osteoarthritis pain without medication, especially if it is diagnosed as mild-to-moderate.
  • Inflammatory Arthritis: Also referred to as Rheumatoid Arthritis, this occurs when the body’s immune system attacks joint tissues with intense inflammation. Inflammatory arthritis often has a genetic cause, and doctors usually treat it aggressively with drugs. However, depending on the severity of symptoms, physical therapy may be recommended for treatment as well.
  • Metabolic Arthritis: The most common type of metabolic arthritis is gout, a condition caused by uric acid crystals building up in the joints of the extremities, especially in the feet. This is typically a result of reduced kidney function. Physical therapy can help gout patients restore range of motion in the affected area, and it can even reduce the buildup of acidic crystals that accumulate in the joints.

How will physical therapy help me?

A physical therapist’s main goal when treating arthritis is reducing stress on the joints, increasing strength, and preserving range of motion. Some benefits to working with a physical therapists include:

  • Weight control. Your physical therapist will work with you to control your weight through exercise and diet. Controlling your weight helps to prevent added stress on weight-bearing joints.
  • Proper posture. Posture work will help to reduce stress on your joints.
  • Stretching/exercise. Light exercises and stretching will help to increase the range of motion in the affected areas.
  • Rest. Your therapist will also recommend a schedule for rest and sleep to complement your exercises. This helps the body to heal and will hopefully reduce your amount of arthritic inflammation and pain.

Every treatment regimen is different based on your body’s needs and your particular type of arthritis. The best way to get started on a natural, safe, and healthy treatment through physical therapy is by calling and scheduling a consultation with one of our physical therapists today. We’ll get you feeling comfortable and pain-free after just a few short sessions!


Tags: Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Inflammatory Arthritis, Metabolic Arthritis, Weight control, Proper posture, Rest, Arthritis Pain Relief, Physical Therapy, Physical Therapist, Health, Exercise

Study paves way to better understanding, treatment of arthritis

The study, published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering, opens the door to better understanding how interventions such as diet, drugs and exercise affect a joint’s cells, which is important because cells do the work of developing, maintaining and repairing tissue.

Research by the OSU College of Engineering’s Brian Bay and scientists from the Royal Veterinary College in London and University College London developed a sophisticated scanning technique to view the “loaded” joints of arthritic and healthy mice — loaded means under strain, such as an ankle, knee or elbow would be while running, walking, throwing, etc.

“Imaging techniques for quantifying changes in arthritic joints have been constrained by a number of factors,” said Bay, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “Restrictions on sample size and the length of scanning time are two of them, and the level of radiation used in some of the techniques ultimately damages or destroys the samples being scanned. Nanoscale resolution of intact, loaded joints had been considered unattainable.”

Bay and a collaboration that also included scientists from 3Dmagination Ltd (UK), Edinburgh Napier University, the University of Manchester, the Research Complex at Harwell and the Diamond Light Source developed a way to conduct nanoscale imaging of complete bones and whole joints under precisely controlled loads.

To do that, they had to enhance resolution without compromising the field of view; reduce total radiation exposure to preserve tissue mechanics; and prevent movement during scanning.


“With low-dose pink-beam synchrotron X-ray tomography, and mechanical loading with nanometric precision, we could simultaneously measure the structural organization and functional response of the tissues,” Bay said. “That means we can look at joints from the tissue layers down to the cellular level, with a large field of view and high resolution, without having to cut out samples.”

Two features of the study make it particularly helpful in advancing the study of osteoarthritis, he said.

“Using intact bones and joints means all of the functional aspects of the complex tissue layering are preserved,” Bay said. “And the small size of the mouse bones leads to imaging that is on the scale of the cells that develop, maintain and repair the tissues.”

Osteoarthritis, the degeneration of joints, affects more than 50 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women are affected at nearly a 25% rate, while 18% of men suffer from osteoarthritis.

As baby boomers continue to swell the ranks of the U.S. senior population, the prevalence of arthritis will likely increase in the coming decades, according to the CDC.


The CDC forecasts that by 2040 there will be 78 million arthritis patients, more than one-quarter of the projected total adult population; two-thirds of those with arthritis are expected to be women. Also by 2040, more than 34 million adults in the U.S. will have activity limitations due to arthritis.

“Osteoarthritis will affect most of us during our lifetimes, many to the point where a knee joint or hip joint requires replacement with a costly and difficult surgery after enduring years of disability and pain,” Bay said. “Damage to the cartilage surfaces is associated with failure of the joint, but that damage only becomes obvious very late in the disease process, and cartilage is just the outermost layer in a complex assembly of tissues that lie deep below the surface.”

Those deep tissue layers are where early changes occur as osteoarthritis develops, he said, but their basic biomechanical function and the significance of the changes are not well understood.

“That has greatly hampered knowing the basic disease process and the evaluation of potential therapies to interrupt the long, uncomfortable path to joint replacement,” Bay said.

Bay first demonstrated the tissue strain measurement technique 20 years ago, and it is growing in prominence as imaging has improved. Related work is being conducted for intervertebral discs and other tissues with high rates of degeneration.

“This study for the first time connects measures of tissue mechanics and the arrangement of the tissues themselves at the cellular level,” Bay said. “This is a significant advance as methods for interrupting the osteoarthritis process will likely involve controlling cellular activity. It’s a breakthrough in linking the clinical problem of joint failure with the most basic biological mechanisms involved in maintaining joint health.”

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Arthritis Research UK, the Medical Research Council, and the Diamond-Manchester Branchline at Diamond Light Source supported this research.

Spinal Osteoarthritis Treatment


Alternative Treatments for Spine Osteoarthritis

Manipulation. A chiropractor, an osteopathic physician, or a properly trained and licensed physical therapist can perform adjustments on the spine that may help properly align the spine and possibly reduce pain.

Massage. Therapeutic massage can help reduce osteoarthritis pain, improve circulation, and reduce muscle tension and spasms. It is preferable to find a professional who is specifically trained in treating people with arthritis.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). This type of non-invasive therapy uses small amounts of electricity to reduce sensitivity of nerves around the spine. Patients typically feel only a gentle vibration or tingling during TENS treatment. Not all patients receive pain relief. TENS therapy may be done in a medical office or the TENS unit may be prescribed to the patient and taken home with instructions regarding its proper use.

In This Article:

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a safe medical treatment that involves inserting ultra-fine needles at specific points on the skin. There is evidence that acupuncture can be helpful for some people with osteoarthritis pain, back pain, or headaches.1 Some doctors may recommend acupuncture as an alternative to medical treatments or in combination with other medical treatments or medications.

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate occur naturally in the body’s cartilage. In clinical trials conducted by the American College of Rheumatology, some patients with knee osteoarthritis reported benefits from taking supplements containing glucosamine sulfate or a combination of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate.2 However, another study examining patients who had low back pain and who took glucosamine for 6 months found the supplement did not reduce pain.3 Experts agree more studies are needed to fully understand how these alternative supplements affect the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

  • See Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate Supplements for Osteoarthritis

Medications to Treat Osteoarthritis

Before deciding on a medication, the patient’s lifestyle, severity of pain and medical history should be taken into account. Possible effects and interactions with other drugs and vitamins/supplements should also be considered.

Analgesics. Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), have relatively few side effects and relieve pain but do not reduce swelling.

Topical medications. These creams, sprays, gels and patches are applied directly to the skin over the painful joint.

  • Topical analgesics. The creams contain counterirritants, such as wintergreen and eucalyptus, which stimulate the nerve endings and distract the brain from neck or back pain. These creams are often sold over the counter and are available in most drug stores. Examples of brand names include Bengay, Icy-Hot and Zostrix. Most can be used in combination with oral pain medications.
    • See Topical Pain Relief for Arthritis
  • Topical non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Like topical analgesics, topical NSAID creams should be applied directly to the painful neck or back. Topical medications containing the NSAID diclofenac have been found effective in treating isolated pain due to knee and hand osteoarthritis.4 Topical NSAIDs are available only with a prescription and sold under the names Voltaren, Flector, Pennsaid, and Solaraze.
    • See Over-the-Counter Topical Arthritis Pain Relief
  • Lidocaine patches. Topical lidocaine numbs an area and interrupts pain signals to the brain. Adhesive patches containing 5% lidocaine can be applied directly to the back to reduce or alleviate osteoarthritis pain.5 These patches are available only with a prescription.
  • See Prescription Topical Arthritis Pain Relief

Topical medications may be a good choice for people with spinal osteoarthritis who want to minimize gastrointestinal side effects that oral medications sometimes cause; however, side effects are still possible. Patients should always discuss new medications with their doctor or pharmacist and read drug labels and instructions.

Mild narcotic painkillers. Narcotic medications are effective in reducing pain but can be addictive and therefore are not prescribed often.

Muscle relaxants. These drugs may be temporarily prescribed if a spine osteoarthritis patient suffers from muscle spasms.


Injections for Spine Osteoarthritis

Two types of injections are typically used for treatment of severe pain from spine osteoarthritis: steroid injections and hyaluronic acid injections.

  • The goal of steroid injections is to reduce swelling and thereby alleviate back stiffness and pain.
  • The goal of hyaluronic acid injections is to provide lubrication for the facet joint, as hyaluronic acid mimics the viscous synovial fluid that naturally lubricates the facet joint.

The degree of pain relief from injections is variable. When effective, the results from the injections are temporary, typically lasting 6 to 12 months.

  • Read more in the Injections Health Center

Steroidal and/or hyaluronic acid injections are usually used with the goal of providing enough pain relief to enable the patient to get started with a physical therapy program to strengthen muscles and rehabilitate the affected facet joint(s). Injections may also be an option for individuals who are sensitive to medications.

  • See Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis
  • 1.Sherman KJ, Coeytaux RR. Acupuncture for Improving Chronic Back Pain, Osteoarthritis and Headache. J Clin Outcomes Manag. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 May 4. Published in final edited form as: J Clin Outcomes Manag. 2009 May 1; 16(5): 224–230. PMCID: PMC2863344.
  • 2.Loes M, “Natural Medicine and Pain Relievers: A Review,” Natural Medicine Online. Accessed January 11, 2013.
  • 3.Arthritis Today. Study finds glucosamine supplements are no help for back pain. Arthritis Foundation. Accessed January 11, 2013. Published July 7, 2010.
  • 4.Derry S, Moore RA, Rabbie R. Topical NSAIDs for chronic musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;9:CD007400. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007400.pub2. Review. PubMed PMID: 22972108.
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