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Medical & Complementary Treatment for Osteoarthritis

Physiotherapy Therapy

Physical therapy can improve muscle strength and motion at stiff joints. Physical therapists have many techniques for treating Osteoarthritis .

Manual therapy and supervised exercise may help you put off joint replacement surgery for a time or even avoid it. In one study of people with OA of the knee, those who got manual therapy to the lumbar spine, hip, ankle, and knees showed the following improvements:

Less stiffness
Reduced pain
Improved functional ability
Improved walking distance
Less need for knee surgery 1 year later

Balneotherapy (Hydrotherapy or spa therapy)

Balneotherapy is one of the oldest forms of therapy for pain relief for people with arthritis. The term "balneo" comes from the Latin word for bath (balneum) and refers to bathing in thermal or mineral waters. Sulfur-containing mud baths, for example, have been shown to relieve symptoms of arthritis. However, hydrotherapy, which can be performed under the guidance of certain physical therapists, is sometimes referred to with the word balneotherapy. The goals of balneotherapy for arthritis include:

Improving range of joint motion
Increasing muscle strength
Eliminating muscle spasm
Enhancing functional mobility
Easing pain

Although balneotherapy is most often used for psoriatic or rheumatoid arthritis, some medical experts believe that it may help people with OA as well. However, one large review of clinical trials found little evidence to support its use.

Ice Massage, Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation (TENS), and Electroacupuncture

In a well-designed trial comparing the effectiveness of TENS, electroacupuncture, and ice massage for the treatment of knee OA, each of these methods were found to:

Reduce pain at rest
Reduce stiffness
Boost walking speed
Increase quadriceps muscle strength
Increase knee range of motion

Many physical therapists use TENS. When the nerve stimulation of TENS is applied to acupuncture points, it is called electroacupuncture.

Mechanical Aids (braces, splints)

Many mechanical devices, called orthoses, are available for people with OA to help support and protect joints. Made from lightweight metal leather, elastic, foam, and plastic, they allow some movement of the affected joint while not restricting nearby joints. For example, splints or braces help align joints and properly distribute weight. Shock-absorbing soles in shoes can help in daily activities and during exercise. Physical therapists use these mechanical aids most often to treat hands, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet. Orthoses should be custom-fitted by a physical or occupational therapist.


Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following treatments to alleviate symptoms of OA based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.

Although people with OA are best treated with an individualized homeopathic remedy chosen by a professional homeopath, several trials have found that some common homeopathic combinations may be at least as effective as conventional medications for OA. Potential remedies include:

A topical homeopathic gel containing comfrey (Symphytum officinale), poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron), and marsh-tea (Ledum palustre)
A combination homeopathic preparation containing R. toxicodendron., Arnica montana (arnica), Solanum dulcamara (climbing nightshade), Sanguinarra canadensis (bloodroot), and Sulphur
A liquid homeopathic preparation containing R. toxicodendron, Causticum (potassium hydrate), and Lac vaccinum (cow's milk)

Other Common Homeopathic Remedies for OA Include:

Calcarea carbonica (carbonate of lime or calcium carbonate)
Bryonia (wild hops)

Source: Osteoarthritis | University of Maryland Medical Center
University of Maryland Medical Center

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