Just what can help the ongoing chronic pain of arthritis? Arthritis UK have just launched a couple of reports that might help us answer that question. You can download both reports in full from here.
Note that actually the title of the report is rather negative in that they suggest they have found a lack of evidence for complementary therapies but, if you read the report there is quite a lot of positive in it! Bad headlines sell newspapers and all that…
In the first report, they have analysed the evidence in randomly controlled trials (RCTs) into pain relief given by various natural supplements such as fish oils, glucosamine etc. They include pain relief supplements used for arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromylagia.
Note first of all that this means that there has to have been an RCT on this very subject for the evidence to have been included, so it may not actually very accurately reflect patient experience. For example, they found very little RCT evidence for glucosamine, but I have seen it bring substantial relief many times for patients in practice. I would also like to have seen combinations of the different substances tested eg glucosamine with MSM which, again, I have found successful in clinical practice, although of course that doesn’t happen in RCTs; I think the synergy between elements is actually stronger many times than single ones. That’s why you tend to get combinations in products.
All that said, any RCT evidence is useful so it’s certainly worth looking at.
In the second report, they have done the same thing to assess the evidence of various complementary therapies and the pain relief those might confer.
So, what was the conclusion?
Pain Relief Supplements For Arthritis
Alternative medicines appear to be more promising [than those for RA and FM I think they mean] for people with osteoarthritis, with only 4 out of 22 approaches (18 per cent) scoring 1 point:
There is a great chart on page 60 of this first report which summarises the findings. The headlines, though are:
Capsaicin, made from chilli peppers, proved the most effective for osteoarthritis, scoring the full 5 points, as did Fish Body Oil for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The nutritional supplement SAMe was found to be well tolerated and scored a 4 for effectiveness for OA. So did Indian Frankincense.
FM was much better helped by therapies – see below.
I have searched for a combination product containing Capsaicin, SAMe, boswellia (frankincense) and fish oil for you but haven’t found one yet so you will need to choose one and combine them yourselves. That said, one of the pain relievers I do recommend has frankincense in and you can get it from ND as usual here. Read about it here. You can also get capsaicin gels and creams to rub on, so look out for those. If you’re not sure what to use or choose, just ask and I will help.
Top Therapies To Help Pain
In this second report, several therapies were considered – again only those which have had RCTs done on them will show up, but it does make interesting reading. Many people I know swear by other therapies like chiropractic and osteopathy so this may not reflect actual patient experience. That said, as a massage therapist in the past myself, I know how much it can help, and acupuncture was always our next recommendation, especially for nerve pain like sciatica.
For Arthritis, Acupuncture scored the full 5 and Tai Chi 4.
For Low Back Pain, both Massage and Acupuncture scored the full 5 and Yoga 4.
For Fibromyalgia, a tremendously difficult condition to treat in my experience, I was pleased to see Massage score the full 5 and Acupuncture a 4.
The Arthritis Pain Prescription
In summary, at least from this report, it seems, for pain, you should get regular acupuncture and massage, and use Tai Chi as your exercise choice. A combination of fish oils and boswellia with a capsaicin cream to rub on should go some way to helping you too.
Hope that is useful for you. Please do ignore the rather negative headlining here; there is much that can help and I know I would rather use massage, fish oils and frankincense that be on drug-based anti-inflammatories if I could.