Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier - The Best Alternative Medicine

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Arthritis: CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions

  • Arthritis can be the result of common lifestyle risks such as smoking, overeating, or being too sedentary; some forms of arthritis can be prevented, arrested, or even reversed when patients stop making these lifestyle mistakes.

  • Exercise and movement, which are used in many MindBody therapies, decrease the harmful effects of stress, and help prevent some of the diseases of aging (including arthritis). Some Eastern exercise disciplines, such as yoga and tai chi, address body and mind as an integral system.

  • Cognitive behavioral interventions (education, training in coping skills and motivation techniques, and behavioral rehearsal) are very effective with patients suffering from chronic diseases such as arthritis, and are a viable addition to conventional treatment for arthritis.

  • Arthritis patients who participated in a lifestyle-based pain management program experienced an average 20 percent decline in pain, and a 40 percent reduction in doctor visits.

  • Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese exercise involving physical movements and breathing exercises, has been studied in China for its impact on arthritis.

  • Music therapy (listening to and making music) has been found to raise the pain threshold of rheumatoid arthritis patients.

  • Hospitals and HMOs are increasingly including MindBody components in their managed care programs, and are successfully treating arthritis with this approach.

  • Injections of the antioxidant enzyme SOD are used in Europe to treat musculoskeletal inflammation and osteoarthritis. Bovine SOD, injected into the joint, has been found beneficial in treating osteoarthritis of the knee. However, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has been disappointing.

  • Testosterone, a hormone, has been studied as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, with equivocal results. Improvement was noted in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms; however, there was no significant effect on the disease.

  • Chinese herbal medicine is the most dominant traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) intervention worldwide, and several American companies are now making Chinese herbal formulas that can have positive impacts on diseases such as arthritis.

  • One of the most frequently used herbs in Japanese herbal medicine, Bupleurum, has been used in Japan for treating arthritis.

  • An extract of TCM anti-arthritis herb T-2 (Tripterygium wilfordii), was administered to seventy patients with rheumatoid arthritis of at least six months' duration, none of whom had responded to standard treatment. Herb T-2 produced positive results that were better than the results produced by a standard arthritis drug.

  • In an arthritis study, 50 percent of osteoarthritis patients using acupuncture became much improved or symptom-free, compared to 31 percent of patients taking medication. In another arthritis study, 25 percent of patients scheduled for knee surgery were able to avoid surgery after a course of acupuncture.

Caution: Among the most serious, occasional side effects of acupuncture are mild, transitory depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

  • Naturopathic medicine in the form of nutritional supplements, botanicals, and physical medicine (electromagnetic field stimulation) has been found to have significant effects in the treatment of arthritis.

  • Glucosamine is currently being investigated, in a large NCCAM- funded multicenter RCT, as an effective nutritional supplement. Considerable animal research indicates that glucosamine alone may arrest arthritic deterioration. There is less evidence supporting the addition of the supplements chondroitin or bromelain in conjunction with the glucosamine.

  • Current research is addressing the effects of homeopathic treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.

  • Homeopathy, which is considered a complete medical system and is capable of addressing a wide array of health problems, has successfully treated arthritis.

  • Homeopathy patients with rheumatoid arthritis have shown a statistically significant improvement in pain, stiffness, and grip strength, compared to a placebo.

  • In homeopathy, Rhus tox is a commonly prescribed remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, but it is less commonly prescribed for osteoarthritis.

  • Ayurveda is India's traditional system of natural medicine. In Vedic philosophy there are three essential, overriding qualities (or doshas) that are present in all things - vata, pitta, and kapha). Vata people most commonly have arthritis.

  • Ayurvedic herbs are used both internally and externally to treat arthritis and muscle disorders.

  • Ten medical conditions (including arthritis) were studied for effects of multiple Maharishi Ayur-Ved interventions involving a nutritional program, individualized herbal preparations, and lifestyle guidelines. Seventy-nine percent of the patients showed improvement, 14 percent showed no change, and 7 percent became worse. All ten categories of medical condition showed significant improvement.

  • An Ayurvedic preparation consisting of the herbs Withania somnifera, Boswellia serrata, Cucurma longa, and a zinc complex produced a significant reduction in pain in a study of arthritis.

  • More than three-quarters of arthritis patients who were treated with powdered ginger achieved relief from pain and swelling, and all of the patients with muscular discomfort had pain relief. None of the patients reported adverse effects. Ginger is both an anti-inflammatory and an anti-coagulant and may induce excess bleeding.

  • Patients receiving a special extract of guggul (the crude gum of the herb Boswellia serrata), known as H-15, were found to have reduced swelling and pain, compared with those who received placebo. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis were reduced in 50 to 60 percent of the patients.

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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

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