PrepperMed 101: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Prepping for Arthritis, Part III

Part I and Part II of this series looked at the two arthritis remedies and/or preventatives that don’t depend on access to medical care, and that research supports as being the most helpful.  Part III is about the leftovers; supportive therapies that also don’t depend on medical care.  Some of them are supported by research, some have ambivalent results, and some are in the ‘Waste of Time’ pile.  As in the first two parts of the series, I’m still not a physician, so this piece is meant as information I hope will be helpful rather than any kind of personal recommendation.  I don’t cite every journal article I looked at, but a few key citations are listed at the end.

The Good

I’ll bet you didn’t see this one coming:  A research-supported use for leeches in the 21st century.  They reduce the inflammation and swelling, therefore reducing the pain of arthritic joints.  Ok, so this is entirely impractical for home use, but c’mon; I just had to share it.

Personally, I’d prefer the arthritis. But hey, they say it works! Thanks to GlebK* for the image.

More usefully, here’s a prep that might be acquired during ‘blue sky’ times:  Orthotics.  Specially designed shoes or inserts have proven useful in reducing pain from foot, knee, and hip arthritis in some people.  The variety of types of orthotics is mind-boggling, and selection depends very much on individual characteristics of affected joints.  Doctors of orthopedics and rheumatology would be good people to get personalized advice from.

Would this orthotic be appropriate? I don’t know; but they’ll be happy to sell it to you.

Massage has also proven helpful.  This is probably working through improved blood flow and reduction of fluid accumulation in affected areas.  Textual descriptions of massage techniques are kind of tricky, so talking to a physical therapist or doctor might be best.  For other kinds of swelling, I’ve found that moderately firm motions that start below the swelling and move smoothly in the direction of the heart are useful … but that’s merely a personal observation.

The Bad

Not to waste a lot of your time, here are some things I found research articles exploring where no real value of the treatment was found when placebo effects were controlled:

Arnica (an herb)

Copper bracelets and other ‘magnetic’ treatments

Electrotherapy (I understood this to be using the personally-controlled trans-cutaneous stimulators that actually are helpful for some other kinds of pain.)

Balneotherapy (that’s what you call spa baths if you get paid by the syllable)

The Ugly

I made this category for splinting affected limbs because the research was contradictory. Some people, such as the Euro League Against Rheumatism, recommend it.  Others found it unhelpful.  The summary I came to was that splinting sometimes reduces pain, but was less likely to improve function; and that ‘activity splints’ that offer support but allow use and movement were both more effective and less annoying to the wearers than splints that completely immobilized the joint.  (After having read about effects of exercise, it was easy to believe that immobilization was not a great plan.)  If it were my joints, I’d get expert advice on choosing a splint.

Just spitballing here; but I suspect this one would qualify as an ‘immobilization’ device.

Here are a few of the sources that gave rise to this piece:

  1. Ernst, MD, PhD, FRCP(Edin); M. H. Pittler, MD. Efficacy of Homeopathic ArnicaA Systematic Review of Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials. Arch Surg. 1998;133(11):1187-1190. doi:10.1001/archsurg.133.11.1187

Riskowski, J., Dufour, A. B., & Hannan, M. T. (2011). Arthritis, Foot Pain & Shoe Wear: Current Musculoskeletal Research on Feet. Current Opinion in Rheumatology, 23(2), 148–155. http://doi.org/10.1097/BOR.0b013e3283422cf5

  1. P. M. Vliet Vlieland; Non-drug care for RA—is the era of evidence-based practice approaching?. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2007; 46 (9): 1397-1404. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kem149

*By GlebK (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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    • Tumeric does have useful properties, I agree, and extracts of it are doing very good things in clinical trials. The problems with it as a prep is that it most of the world can’t grow it (it requires tropical temps and lots of rain), and the doses that are proving useful are pretty high (grams per day of extract). That makes it tough to use if you can’t just buy it. I can’t speak to the shelf life of the preparations, but herb extracts in general don’t do well on that score.

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