Arthritis: Alternatives To Surgery

June 27, 2012

As a youth orchestra conductor, Dorothy Kitchen was used to being on her feet all day. But

then knee arthritis struck.

"I sit now, instead of stand, when I conduct," Dorothy Kitchen, a woman who suffers arthritis told Ivanhoe.

Kitchen is determined not to have surgery and only takes meds if she's really in pain.

"I'm not a pill-taker," Kitchen said.

But one thing that has helped is massage.

"I feel more alive, my legs feel mobile," Kitchen said.

Dr. Adam Perlman of Duke University launched a pilot study on massage for knee osteoarthritis. Patients who had massages twice a week for a month and then once a week for another month, had less pain, better range of motion and faster walking speeds.

"And that improvement actually persisted eight weeks after massage was finished," Adam Perlman, M.D., MPH, executive director, Duke Integrated Medicine told Ivanhoe.

Another alternative is acupuncture.

"There is very interesting data suggesting that acupuncture can be effective particularly for arthritis of the knee," Dr. Perlman said.

In one study, 25 percent of arthritis patients who were scheduled for knee surgery cancelled their procedures after acupuncture. Then there's glucosamine.

"The studies are conflicting about glucosamine," Dr. Perlman said.

Most studies show glucosamine sulfate at 1,500 milligrams a day can help but glucosamine hydrochloride is most commonly sold in the U.S does not. Finally fight pain by losing weight. Every pound you lose means four pounds less pressure on your knees. That's what works for Kitchen, taking daily walks and massage.

"This will be wonderful! I'll feel good all afternoon," Kitchen concluded.

Dr. Perlman is now enrolling patients in the massage study, which will take place at three centers: one at Duke, one at Yale and one in New Jersey.

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