by Erik Lundquist
One of the most common reasons that patients present to my office is for joint pain or arthritis. Injuries often keep us from exercising and participating in sports. Other patients come in complaining of degenerative changes such as osteoarthritis. Most of these symptoms and conditions are treated with over-the-counter pain medicines. However, due to growing concerns regarding some of the harmful effects of these medications I am continually asked for non-pharmaceutical alternatives.
The most commonly seen adverse effect of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Motrin, aspirin, Naprosyn, Advil, Aleve, is gastrointestinal bleeding. There an estimated 107,000 hospitalizations in the US attributed to this complication, with 16,500 deaths, making it 15 leading cause of death in the US. Other commonly recognized adverse effects of NSAIDs include hypertension, fluid retention, kidney problems, leaky gut and congestive heart failure. Acetaminophen or Tylenol® is regarded as safer than NSAIDs but can be damaging to the liver in some individuals and raise blood pressure in others.
There are multiple herbal and nutritional supplements that have been shown in scientific studies to be beneficial in helping with joint pain with very few and often no side effects. One of my favorite recommendations is glucosamine sulfate. Glucosamine sulfate is a precursor to cartilage formation, therefore, giving the body extra glucosamine helps to provide building blocks needed to repair cartilage breakdown. I have found that 1500 mg of Dona® glucosamine per day has had a profound effect in reducing pain with my patients.
Herbal supplements which show favor include curcumin or turmeric (1 gram/day), Boswellia (100-400 mg/day) and Ginger (300 mg/day). Several studies have shown improvement in both pain and inflammatory markers when taken on a daily basis. Studied products include Zyflamend®, Meriva®, and Healthy Knees and Joints®. These products work on the body very similar to NSAIDs blocking pain and inflammatory pathways. They do not work quite as quickly as Motrin but can be as effective and are much safer long-term.
Lastly, there are a couple vitamins that I often recommend. One, vitamin B3, niacinamide, at 500 mg 6 times per day has been shown to be effective for pain reduction in patients with osteoarthritis. Vitamin C, found in high doses in Rose Hips, has been shown to increase the time needed for joint replacement in a randomized controlled study of 100 patients using 5 g per day of a product called LitoZin®.
Most of these products can be found at health food stores but there are some that can only be prescribed through health practitioners. However, as ConsumerLab.com continually shows sometimes up to 80% of nutritional supplement products do not contain what they report on the label, so be careful. As always, seek the advice of your physician when striving to gain optimal health.
Dr. Erik Lundquist is a Family Practice Physician with Graybill Medical Group in Temecula who specializes in Holistic and Integrative Medicine. His office number is (866) 228-2236.