How to Treat Osteoarthritis

Home / Alt Medicine Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Adams, MD

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a biomechanical and physiological disease. The cartilage that provides a buffer between bones breaks down and wears away, allowing the bones to rub and grind against each other, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

While many view osteoarthritis as a disease of the elderly, this is entirely inaccurate. Three out of five arthritis patients are younger than 65. Osteoarthritis can result from overuse of joints, and is often a consequence of demanding sports, obesity, or aging. If you were an athlete or dancer in your younger years and wonder why your knee or hip aches when you climb out of bed in the morning, ask your doctor about osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is common in weight-bearing joints — the knees, hips, feet, and spine — and comes on gradually over months or years. Except for the pain in the joints, it does not cause you to feel sick or have fatigue, as other types of inflammatory arthritis do.

With osteoarthritis, you may feel fine except for a few minutes of stiffness on arising in the morning or stiffness after sitting. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

Deep, aching pain in the joint
Difficulty dressing or combing hair
Difficulty gripping objects
Difficulty sitting or bending over
Joint is warm to touch
Morning stiffness
Pain when walking
Stiffness after resting
Swelling of the joint

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed using blood tests that eliminate other more serious inflammatory types of arthritis and other medical problems. A sample of the joint fluid may show the typical changes of osteoarthritis. Usually by the time a patient gets treatment for osteoarthritis, there are visible changes on an X-ray of the joint. A narrowing of the cartilage may show on the X-ray but no destruction as with inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis.

There are a few drugs that can help with osteoarthritis treatment, as well as surgical treatment for osteoarthritis for people in extreme pain. But the following natural treatment for arthritis may help ease your pain, too. Remember to consult with your doctor first before taking over-the-counter (OTC) natural supplements for osteoarthritis.

Some herbs and supplements (capsaicin, flaxseed, ginger, ginkgo, and turmeric) are said to be good for arthritis. But the most popular ones for pain relief are chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine. Both are made of compounds found in cartilage. They may help your body regenerate the cartilage on your joints, but evidence is sketchy.

Studies have shown they may provide modest pain relief and could be tried if you're unable to tolerate other pain medications. The American College of Rheumatology doesn’t currently recommend the use of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine.

Other natural remedies include acupuncture, massage, heating pads, and ice packs. Reducing stress by maintaining a positive outlook may also help.