Monday, April 18, 2011

How do you get rid of the pain of degenerative arthritis?

By Richard P. Holm, M.D.

Many people deal with the chronic pain of degenerative arthritis, and every day people walk or sometimes wheel into my office asking for relief. Whether it is hip, knee, or shoulder arthritis resulting from an injury that happened years ago, or back and neck arthritis coming from an inherited condition or the aging process, these folks suffer. They have pain during movement, when they are still and trying to sleep, or too often continuous pain. Unfortunately, arthritis prevents movement, which only confounds the problem.

Of course we have medical weaponry to fight against such an enemy. I could prescribe exercise, stretching, hands-on physical therapy, topical ointments, pain medicines, muscle-relaxing pills, anti-inflammation solutions, injections, and finally call for a surgeon to repair or replace bad joints. My preference of these is to do whatever it takes to keep people moving and strengthening. Unfortunately, although these options can be very helpful, too often they are inadequate and some people still hurt.

In response to continued pain and dysfunction, individuals will sometimes turn to complimentary and alternative therapies such as massage, spinal manipulation, progressive relaxation, acupuncture, yoga, and tai chi. Also there are herbal remedies such as glucosamine, chondroitin, gamma linolenic acid, and many more. I should say here that there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support some of these options when used appropriately. 

In spite of all these standard or legitimate complimentary therapies, however, there are those who still hurt and can fall prey to scam artists trying to profit from someone’s misfortune and desperation. I would warn people about advertisements that promise too much, yet it is difficult for me to attack such claims, since our standard therapies for arthritis can also be expensive and inadequate.

When all is said and done, people will still hurt. It is simply the human condition and most often the consequence of staying alive a long time. But I believe the best plan to deal with the chronic pain of degenerative arthritis should be to do whatever you can to keep moving.
Dr. Rick Holm wrote this editorial for “On Call®,” a weekly program about health on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television that is produced by the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service. “On Call” airs Thursdays on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television at 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain.

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