Natural aging comes with decreased cartilage in the joints, even without factoring in the effects of body weight, activity level, joint injuries, surgeries, etc. While some get their joints replaced and scientists are working hard to regenerate cartilage or otherwise outsmart arthritis, the majority of us wants to make the most of what we’ve got. The strength and flexibility one gets through PT is certainly part of the answer, but physical activity may have its limits and leave you looking for that little extra something. While there are many products on the shelves that might work and people are never shy about telling you what works FOR THEM (not to mention the flood of options/opinions on the internet!), below are some options we’ve researched that have been shown to help with arthritis symptoms.
As with anything you might put on, or in, your body, if you have any question whether a substance below might react with a condition or medication you have, always consult your doctor or pharmacist first.
(For all topical creams, don’t apply to sensitive areas or broken skin, test a small dab on a patch of skin first, and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after use—nothing distracts you from arthritis pain quite like hot pepper in the eyes!):
Arnica (particularly for hands) – perennial flower of the daisy family, believed to have anti-inflammatory effects, though mechanism unknown.
Comfrey—perennial flower, believed to have anti-inflammatory effects due to the presence of allantoin.
Menthol—derived from the mint family, causing a local cooling sensation, which distracts you from pain signals.
Capsaicin—the “hot” substance in peppers, causing a local heat, stinging or itching sensation that distracts you from pain signals.
Boswellia serrata— resin from the tree of the same name, containing boswellic acid, which prevents the formation of leukotrienes (inflammatory agents)
Avocado-soyabean unsaponifiables—extracts from avocado and soybean oils, prevent cartilage-degrading enzymes, stimulate cartilage building through collagen synthesis
Turmeric – from the plant of the same name (related to ginger), containing curcumin, which blocks cytokines and cartilage-degrading enzymes
Glucosamine & Chondroitin (particularly for knees)—components of cartilage, thought to build cartilage or fight cartilage-degrading enzymes (research is mixed and those with diabetes, shellfish allergies, or taking warfarin should not take without discussing with their physician)
If you’re looking for other options, we have trusted partners who specialize in essential oils, nutrition and supplements.
By Tom Fontana, MSPT