Prevention and Alternative Treatments

Delaying or Preventing Osteoarthritis

The pain of osteoarthritis does not have to be endured. In fact, pain is a signal that something needs to be corrected rather than endured. When pain is severe, you should consult with your doctor about definitive treatment by PAO surgery or a total hip replacement (THR). Ignoring pain too long as a young adult can cause more damage to your hip and eliminate the possibility of corrective surgery to restore your hip function.

There are several types of arthritis. The one caused by hip dysplasia is osteoarthritis, which means the smooth joint surface is wearing out like a tire wears out on a car. If the tire is out of balance, then the wear is uneven and faster than a well-balanced tire. Once the tread is gone, then it’s time to replace the tire. For dysplastic hips it’s often possible to correct the imbalance with surgery and prolong the life of the hip surface, delaying, reducing, or preventing the onset of osteoarthritis.

If you have hip pain but do not currently need surgery, anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxyn (Aleve) can relieve inflammation and provide pain relief. In some situations, these medicines can improve quality of life. Your doctor can explain these medications to you and discuss recommended dosages. Heat and ice can also be used to treat joint pain.

Alternative Treatments

There are no known alternative treatments to prevent or cure osteoarthritis. Some people do experience temporary pain relief from symptoms when using alternative treatments, though studies have not shown evidence that this changes the long-term outcome of osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is sometimes tried for pain relief. Acupuncture is a traditional Asian practice in which small needles are inserted into the patient and manipulated by the practitioner. The theory of treatment is to improve the flow of energy throughout the body however there is no evidence to support this mechanism.

In 2009, the British Medical Journal published a review of thirteen studies of acupuncture that concluded there was little difference between real, sham, or no acupuncture for relief of pain. [1] Those who report pain relief may be experiencing a placebo effect.

Avocado-Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASUs)

ASUs are supplements made from a specific type of oil from avocados and soybeans. ASU supplements are thought to slow down cartilage wear and to encourage the growth of healthy cartilage in hip and knee joints.

The oil in the supplements is more concentrated than what is consumed when eating avocados and soybeans. There is some evidence that ASUs may relieve symptoms of arthritis, but the effect may be short term. [2]

Ginger

Ginger is an edible root often used in cooking as a seasoning. In the context of alternative medicine, ginger is sometimes recommended to settle an upset stomach or to reduce inflammation and its resulting pain. Ginger can be purchased as a supplement, or ginger can be made into a tea.

Ginger contains compounds called gingerols that have anti-inflammatory properties. There is some evidence that ginger has a moderate pain relieving effect for osteoarthritis. [3]

Ginger might interfere with some blood-thinning medications. So if you are taking a blood thinner, check with your doctor before taking ginger supplements. Side effects from ginger supplements can include heartburn or diarrhea.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Randomized controlled studies have shown that these supplements do not promote the growth of cartilage or improve joint health. It is still possible to buy these supplements, but they will not improve the health of your hip joint.

People who are allergic to shellfish should not take glucosamine. Glucosamine and chondroitin can interfere with blood-thinning medicines.

Tai Chi and Yoga

Tai Chi and yoga are traditional disciplines with movements than can help promote strength, flexibility, and balance. Staying active is good for you as long as you do not push your joints to the point that you are in pain or you get injured.

Look for teachers who are willing to work with any limitations that you may have. Some experienced teachers can suggest ways to modify exercises so that they are less strenuous.

Though these exercises can improve your muscle strength, posture, and overall health, they cannot change the bone structure of your hip joint.

For more information about alternative medicines, including studies, see the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health or the Cochrane Reviews. The Cochrane Collaboration is an independent organization that reviews primary research in health care.


References:

  1. M.A, Madsen, et.al. BMJ 338:a3115, 2009
  2. E. Ernst, Clin. Rheumatol. 22:285-8, 2003
  3. R.D. Altman and K.C. Marcussen, Arthritis Rheum. 44:2461-2, 2001

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