Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints.

1. Arthritis treatments
When joint cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing osteoarthritis. Sounds painful? It is. Osteoarthritis seriously impairs the quality of life for 27 million Americans. Given that osteoarthritis is so disabling, painful, and common, lots of quack cures are out there, from shark cartilage to copper jewelry to snake venom. But here are 13 natural remedies that research suggests may actually help ease arthritis pain.

2. Weight loss
The best remedymaintaining a healthy weight, and losing weight if necessaryis not the easiest. Still, every pound you pare off means 4 pounds less pressure on your knees, says Laura Robbins, senior vice president of education and academic affairs at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Some people will see their symptoms disappear if they lose 10 to 20 pounds, says Roy Altman, MD, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

3. Exercise
Physical activity is essential for people with osteoarthritis, whether it means walking around your apartment if youre a fragile older person or swimming laps if youre in better shape.
People used to think that exercise made arthritis worse, but the opposite is trueunless youre pounding the pavement. Runners with knee osteoarthritis should cut down on mileage, try to cross train, and run on softer surfaces like tracks and dirt paths.
Exercise programs should include both aerobic exerciselike walking, swimming, or bikingand strengthening exercises, such as isometric and isotonic exercises, Dr. Altman says.

4. Acupuncture
Many people find that acupuncture helps relieve pain and disability due to arthritis; several studies have found benefit from the procedure. Several trials show acupuncture to be helpful for many people with osteoarthritis, says Dr. Altman. Its not helpful in everybody.

5. Glucosamine
There is some evidence that suggests that glucosamine alleviates arthritis pain, but the type of glucosamine matters. There continues to be a lot of controversy about it. Theres a fair amount of data that glucosamine sulfate is beneficial, but glucosamine hydrochloride is not, Dr. Altman says. Almost all of the products that are sold here in the United States are glucosamine hydrochloride. There are no trials demonstrating that glucosamine hydrochloride benefits people with osteoarthritis. In the studies that did find benefit for glucosamine sulfate, Dr. Altman says, patients took 1,500 milligrams once a day, which resulted in better absorption in the body than splitting the dose.

6. Chondroitin
Early research found that this supplement was promising when combined with glucosamine. However, more recent studies indicate its not effective. Although some studies suggest that chondroitin sulfate slows arthritis progression, it hasnt been shown to help symptoms, says Dr. Altman. Studies that found the supplement helpful used 800 milligrams or 1,200 milligrams daily. Theyre really pretty safe, Dr. Altman says of the supplements. The one thing about them is theres no major side effects. Theyre fairly well tolerated.

7. Other supplements
Other supplements have shown promise, but the evidence just isnt that strong, says Dr. Altman. Industry funded studies have found benefits for avocado soybean unsaponifiables ASU, which are made from avocado and soybean oils, in patients with hip and knee arthritis. But such studies arent as reliable as those funded by groups that dont stand to gain financially. Theres some evidence that rose hips and highly concentrated ginger could be helpful, Dr. Altman says. Although fish oil has anti inflammatory properties, more research is needed.

8. Topical remedies
Strong smelling mentholated rubs and creams may make your skin tingle, but many have limited value for osteoarthritis, says Dr. Altman. However, there are some creams now available that have proven benefit, he adds. Diclofenac gel, sold in the U.S. as Voltaren Gel or Pennsaid by prescription but available over the counter in Europe, is a nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drug that can ease osteoarthritis pain in the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, wrists, and hands. It hasnt been evaluated in osteoarthritis of the spine, hip, or shoulder. Dr. Altman is a consultant for Novartis, the maker of Voltaren Gel.

9. Capsaicin cream
Capsaicin cream can also relieve osteoarthritis pain, and its available without a prescription. Its made from the substance that gives chili peppers their heat. Nobody knows how it works, although one theory is that the cream relieves pain by depleting the nerve ending of pain impulse transmitting chemicals known as substance P and calcitonin gene related protein, Dr. Altman says.

10. Electricity
Electrical energy can be used to help ease pain and swelling in arthritic joints in a couple of different ways. Physical therapists often employ transcutaneous electrostimulation, or TENS, which involves placing electrodes around the affected joint and delivering electromagnetic pulses through the skin. And theres electroacupuncture, in which the provider uses needles at acupuncture points that are attached to electrodes to pass an electric charge through the acupuncture needles. Theres some evidence that both approaches can help provide at least short term pain relief and also ease joint stiffness.

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