Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis Treatment: What Works/What Doesn’t

“I have suffered from osteoarthritis and cervical and thoracic bone spurs for many years. My arthritis pain was constant, agonizing, and lately so intense that I wanted to give up—I just wanted the pain to end. Conventional treatment put me on one prescription drug after another, which caused numerous harsh side effects, including digestive issues and eventually abdominal bleeding. I was in bad shape.

“When I arrived at Whitaker Wellness, my pain levels were up to an extreme 10. My hips and thighs were in agony and the joints in my right hand were so sensitive that giving a handshake to the people I met at the clinic was out of the question. After just one week of treatment at Whitaker Wellness, my pain subsided enormously. Most significantly, I was able to personally thank Dr. Whitaker and shake his hand!

“I can’t say which one therapy benefitted me the most. I honestly feel that it’s the combination of the Back to Health Program, the supplements, and all the therapies that have helped me immensely. I can go home with less pain, more energy, and better ability to help my wife with her health issues. I plan to continue healing and maintaining this more positive outlook on life.” — W.K., Calgary, Canada

Arthritis: A Real Pain in the Neck

Arthritis can be a real pain in the neck—or any other area affected by degeneration of the cartilage that cushions the joints and vertebral discs. In fact, it’s our number-one cause of pain and disability, affecting some 52 million American adults. When it comes to treating arthritis, of course it’s important to get a handle on discomfort, but the most common arthritis treatments—pain-relieving medications—do nothing to stem cartilage erosion. So once the analgesic effects wear off, you’re back to square one.

You may not think twice about taking over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease your aches and pains. But these medications are far from benign. I never recommend long courses of these drugs when safe, natural treatments for arthritis exist. Here’s why. 

Painkillers as Arthritis Treatments: Helpful Yet Harmful

Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure and is responsible for more than 70,000 ER visits every year.

NSAIDs are notorious for causing gastrointestinal (GI) ulceration and bleeding—and they also raise risk of heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular events. British researchers examined the adverse effects reported by more than 350,000 participants in 754 clinical trials of OTC and prescription NSAIDs. COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex), a class of prescription NSAIDs that is supposed to be safer, and diclofenac raised risk of major events by one-third. Ibuprofen also caused problems, though to a lesser degree. Naproxen was the safest—but like all NSAIDs, it doubled the risk of heart failure. (Although aspirin has GI side effects, it actually protects against cardiovascular disease.)

A better alternative arthritis treatment is topical NSAIDs. Mixed in creams or ointments that you rub into painful joints, they’re far safer, better tolerated, and quite effective. They do require a prescription, so talk to your doctor.

As for using opiate painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone to treat arthritis, all I can say is be very, very careful. It’s unbelievably easy to get hooked on these drugs. We’ve seen a tremendous rise in the use and abuse of prescription opioids since 2000, when policymakers decreed that chronic pain was undertreated, and Big Pharma began heavily promoting prescription painkillers. Doctors now write more than 200 million scripts per year! We have a serious drug problem, folks, and it’s fueled not by shady drug dealers but by physicians and Big Pharma.

Supplements Work Great for Treating Arthritis

Many of the non-drug arthritis treatments endorsed in the recent Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) guidelines, such as exercise, weight loss, mineral-rich hot water soaks, braces, and capsaicin, are great.

But they also got quite a few things wrong. For example, they labeled natural treatments for arthritis like glucosamine and acupuncture as “uncertain” at best, and completely ignored other effective supplements and pain-relieving therapies such as fish oil, curcumin, boswellia, microcurrent, and infrared light.

The negative stance on glucosamine is particularly unwarranted. Although some studies have failed to show benefits, ample scientific evidence demonstrates that therapeutic doses (1,500 mg or higher) of the right kind of glucosamine (sulfate, not hydrochloride) not only provides pain relief but also slows the progression of osteoarthritis. Furthermore, recent research links regular use of glucosamine with lower levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and reduced risk of lung and colorectal cancer.

I’m also bullish on a new natural ingredient for arthritis: undenatured type II collagen (UC-II). I’ve never been very enthusiastic about the usual cartilage supplements, but this one is different because it targets a key inflammatory process that causes pain and cartilage deterioration. In a placebo-controlled study, participants with osteoarthritis of the knee who took 40 mg of UC-II daily for 90 days had a 40 percent reduction in pain and a 20 percent improvement in joint function. This collagen supplement has also been shown to decrease morning stiffness and post-exercise pain.

Innovative Interventions for Treating Arthritis

Conventional physicians often inject corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid into aching joints, but overlook the most powerful injection therapies of all: platelet-rich plasma (PRP), prolotherapy, and adult stem cell therapy. Unlike corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid, which may provide a temporary fix, these three modalities are real arthritis treatments because they help repair and regenerate joint tissues, resulting in enduring and sometimes permanent pain relief.

PRP is extremely effective for treating arthritis because it harnesses the power of platelets, components in the blood that play an essential role in tissue repair. Platelets are separated from a small amount of your own blood and injected directly into affected joints. PRP is used most often for acute and chronic injuries, but it’s also a great natural treatment for arthritis. PRP has been shown to work better than hyaluronic acid injections, especially over the long term.

Prolotherapy, another great arthritis treatment, involves injecting dextrose into the ligaments and tendons that support the joints. Dextrose is a mild irritant, so it turns on the healing process. As these structures recover, they grow stronger, tauter, and better able to hold joints in proper alignment, taking pressure off nerves and cartilage and facilitating repair.

Studies Support These Effective Arthritis Treatments

In a recent study, researchers treated 90 men and women with moderate-to-severe knee pain with prolotherapy, injections of saline, or an exercise program. After nine weeks, the patients who received prolotherapy had much better improvements in knee pain, function, and stiffness compared to the other groups. Best of all, they continued to improve during the year following treatment.

Adult stem cell therapy is the most powerful regenerative modality because it mobilizes your own stem cells, which have the unique ability to change into many different cell types. The stem cells are separated out from a small amount of fat taken from the abdominal area by liposuction. Then millions of activated stem cells are injected back into the body, where they get to work rebuilding degenerated cartilage and facilitating healing. It’s one of the most unique, effective, and cutting-edge arthritis treatments available to date.

Your Action Plan for Treating Arthritis Naturally

I am not suggesting that any of the supplements or arthritis treatments we’ve discussed will reverse severe, bone-on-bone arthritis—although we do have patients who have walked away from joint replacement surgeries. However, I can tell you that these safe, drug-free therapies will give you a fighting chance of achieving what I personally am aiming for: staying active, fully functional, and comfortable throughout my “golden years.”

Suggested daily doses of supplements for pain and slowing cartilage degeneration include glucosamine sulfate 1,500 mg–3,000 mg (start at the higher dose and taper down as symptoms improve), undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) 40 mg, fish oil 4–8 g, curcumin (Meriva) 200-400 mg, and boswellia (products vary in bioavailability; use as directed).

To learn more about PRP, prolotherapy, stem cell therapy, and other arthritis treatments and innovative therapies we offer at Whitaker Wellness, call (866) 632-8890.

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