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Alternative therapies for knee pain and knee arthritis

Supplements

Both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are made naturally by the body. They are important for healthy cartilage in your joints. Cartilage is the firm, rubbery tissue that cushions your bones at the joints and allows bones to glide over one another.

These supplements can be bought without a prescription.

  • Glucosamine comes as glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and n-acetyl glucosamine. These products may come in tablet, capsule, and powder forms. The most commonly studied dosage is 1,500 mg per day of glucosamine hydrochloride.
  • Chondroitin sulfate comes in capsules or tablets. It is often combined with glucosamine at doses of 800 to 2,000 mg per day.

These supplements may help control the pain of knee arthritis. But they do not help your knee joint grow new cartilage or keep arthritis from getting worse. Some doctors recommend a trial period of 3 months to see if glucosamine and chondroitin help.Most studies show some benefit, but the effect is small.

S-adenosylmethionine(SAMe), also called "Sammy," is a man-made form of a byproduct of an amino acid called methionine. An amino acid is a building block of protein. Sammy has been marketed as a remedy for arthritis. However, there is no research that shows it works.

Note: Supplements do not require approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The amount of the "active ingredient" can vary quite a bit. Some supplements can cause harmful side effects. Talk with your doctor before using any supplements or herbal remedies.

Alternative therapies

Acupuncture is a treatment based on Chinese medicine. It works by altering the pain message that nerves send to your brain. To receive acupuncture treatment:

  • You will lie down on an exam table.
  • Needles are inserted with a twirling or gently jiggling motion. You may not feel the needles at all, or you may feel a twitch or a quick twinge of pain or burning that goes away when the needle is inserted completely.
  • The needles are rarely placed more than half an inch deep.
  • After the needles are placed, you will usually rest for 15 to 60 minutes.

Some studies have found that acupuncture may provide short-term pain relief for people with osteoarthritis.

Massage also may help provide short-term pain relief. Choose an experienced massage therapist who knows how to work with sensitive joint areas

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Review Date: 8/9/2018

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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