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Easing arthritis naturally

If you’re one of the millions of people suffering from osteoarthritis, natural supplements that promise to ease joint pain and relieve stiffness look promising—but do they work?

Two of the most widely known supplements—chondroitin and glucosamine—were part of a government-funded study that tested the short-term effectiveness of the supplements on knee osteoarthritis. Preliminary results, announced last year, showed significant relief in a small subgroup of people with moderate-to-severe knee pain who took both supplements. People with mild osteoarthritic knee pain did not show any benefit.

Even without conclusive evidence, some doctors and patients say these over-the-counter remedies have helped ease the suffering caused by osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Pain, stiffness and swelling are a reality for people who suffer from arthritis, which is characterized by cartilage breakdown in the joints of the hips, knees, fingers, feet and spine.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are found naturally in the cells surrounding cartilage. Some researchers believe glucosamine reduces inflammation and stimulates cartilage cell growth, while chondroitin provides cartilage with strength and resilience. When taken as daily supplements, they have shown an ability to improve mobility, ease pain and even halt and reverse the progression of arthritis.

Before taking any dietary supplements for arthritis, check with your doctor to be sure you’re taking what’s best for you. This is especially important since supplements can interfere with traditional medications. Also, beware of remedies that have not been proven to provide relief for arthritis, including shark cartilage, alfalfa, DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) and copper bracelets.