Alternative treatments for osteoarthritis (OA) are usually targeted at reducing the pain, stiffness, swelling, and/or inflammation associated with the condition and are complementary to traditional medicine treatments. As is the case with many alternative treatments for any disease or condition, opinions are often mixed as to the efficacy of some treatment methods, and research is often minimal in comparison to clinical treatment options.

However, many people have had success in using alternative treatments in the management of many diseases and conditions, including OA. Before trying any osteoarthritis alternative treatments, you should always check with your doctor to be sure that the methods are safe and right for you.

Herbs and Supplements

Most supplements that are recommended have anti-inflammatory properties to treat osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine (along with chondroitin) forms the building blocks of cartilage, the substance that covers and protects joints. It is available as a dietary supplement. The research is mixed, but side effects for this supplement are low and there are anecdotal reports of pain relief. However, there is no undisputed strong evidence that glucosamine is helpful at relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Turmeric

Turmeric has been used for years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. Preliminary studies in the U.S. show that turmeric can be effective at reducing joint inflammation.  

Vitamin C and Fish Oil

Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) have been shown to reduce inflammation in joints. Fish oil supplements are especially effective in improving morning stiffness and joint tenderness associated with osteoarthritis.

Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiable

Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiable has been studied by the French government for more than 15 years, and it appears to be safe for preventing the breakdown of cartilage and in promoting repair.

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is from the dried root bark of a woody vine found in Peru and is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have found that it reduces joint swelling in people with arthritis.

Mind/Body Approaches

Many mind/body therapies offer real solutions to osteoarthritis pain without the side effects that medications can have.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture uses fine needles that are inserted at various points on the skin to reduce many types of pain, including that caused by osteoarthritis. 

Massage

Massage can be a great way to ease the pain and stiffness in arthritic joints. Scientific evidence shows that massage decreases stress hormones, depression, muscle pain, and spasms. It also helps you sleep.  

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

This procedure utilizes a small device that produces mild electrical pulses to stimulate nerves near the aching joint. The theory is that this stimulation interferes with pain signals traveling to the brain.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses high-energy sound waves to breakdown scar tissue and restore better blood flow to damaged tissues so the tissue can heal. This technique is usually performed d by a physical or occupational therapist.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback uses a machine that gives you signals about your body’s reaction to stress and pain. With the help of a therapist, you can learn to use these messages to help you cope with osteoarthritis pain.