Runner holding sore leg knee pain from running or exercising jogging injury or cramp

Q. I took Celebrex for over 10 years for arthritis but it eventually lost effectiveness. My new insurance company would not cover Celebrex unless I tried three other medications: meloxicam, ibuprofen and naproxen.

My doctor suggested fish oil and it provided significant relief, about what I had experienced with Celebrex. Then I read your article about gin-soaked raisins and tried them too. I now have less joint pain and discomfort than I ever did with Celebrex.

A. Joint pain can be challenging because all the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs) that are prescribed have side effects. Ibuprofen, meloxicam and naproxen can be hard on the digestive tract, to put it mildly. They all have the potential to trigger life-threatening perforated ulcers.

Heart Hazards with NSAIDs

All these drugs you have mentioned, including Celebrex, may also raise blood pressure and increase the risk for cardiovascular complications. An analysis of data from Denmark confirmed this risk for all NSAIDs except naproxen (Annals of Internal Medicine, online Jan. 15, 2013). The FDA has not given naproxen a clean bill of health, however. As far as the FDA stands, all NSAIDs pose a risk of heart attacks and strokes. These potentially life-threatening reactions can occur within a few weeks of starting an NSAID. That is a high price to pay for relieving joint pain.

Another drug, prednisone, can cause insomnia, hypertension, diabetes, swelling, osteoporosis and cataracts.
Fish oil and gin-soaked raisins offer much less risk. Some people, like you, find they can be quite helpful.

We summarize the pros and cons of medications and offer details about many non-drug options in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. In it, we also discuss other anti-inflammatory foods and spices, such as turmeric, tart cherries, boswellia, ginger, grape juice and pineapple to help ease joint pain.

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  1. Tekinana

    I have used glucosamine for years and it helps tremendously. People usually give up on it too soon though. It takes about 30 days to work.
    Right now,I am suffering from bursitis in my hips after a fall. I’ve had shots and PT, but am still in pain even though I exercise and ice. Naproxen doesn’t work at all so I am dependent on IcyHot and Blue Ice. Any other ideas out there?

  2. Diana
    Boone, NC

    I have arthritis and I cannot tolerate any type of traditional prescription medication for it. I take the supplement Celadrin every day and Tart Cherry twice a week.

  3. Cindy Black
    Seattle, WA

    And don’t forget HYALURONIC ACID, which moistens and lubricates joints (and also skin) from within. Since starting hyaluronic acid (just follow pkg instructions), I am free of the pain from zillions of old sports injuries — torn muscles and ligaments, broken bones, etc. The gin-soaked raisins work great too.

  4. Heather

    I take Orudis/Ketaprofen anti-inflame(can’t live without it) also Prednisolone 4. Can’t take Methotrexate nor Arava.

    SAMe helps me a lot 4 days per week. I bought Turmeric and was taking 2,000mg day but got a nasty red sore itchy rash on arm elbow groin. It was working after 1 month on knees shoulders in particular but had to stop. Might try again but only 680mgs a day.

    Do try Turmeric too but watch out for rash.

  5. frenagd

    Research in Britian shows that people who take fish oil capsules have a 30 percent increase in heart attacks and stroke, but those who eat more fish have a reduction.
    Please tell people to eat the food. not the fakey supplements.

  6. C M

    I have tried most of the remedies and still have pain from rheumatoid arthritis. I am currently taking Humira and meloxicam and would love to get more relief with safer alternatives.

  7. Sharron
    Rhinebeck NY

    The question I’d like to know, and know more about is deal with Lupus and the strain on the body. It affects my joints regularly. My body is compromised, so I’m very sensitive to medications.
    Also I would love to see a article on Lupus on your weekly updates. More people are inflicted with this horrible disease every day, more are always seeking ways to better themselves in this auto immune category.
    Thank Sharron

  8. Dee

    We have bought the correct gin and raisins to try for our arthritis, but don’t know the recipe for preparation as well as amounts of each, storage, and other pertinent information. Would appreciate any help to get us started. We are in our 70’s and prefer to try a non-narcotic approach. Your comments have been inspiring and give us hope.

  9. fyg

    A plant-based diet should help with arthritis. This diet removes foods that cause inflammation.
    I used to suffer from a bulging disk in my neck and after I went on the plant-based diet (vegan) I have absolutely no pain whatsoever. Drugs have too many side-effects so go vegan instead.

  10. SarieD

    I have arthritis in my knees and hands, and I found relief taking gluten and all products containing wheat from my diet. Its amazing, the relief I have found. If I eat any wheat or gluten the arthritis returns. Dr William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly advocates taking wheat out of our diets for many reasons, specifically the wide ranging effects wheat has on our bodies, and I have followed his advice. I highly recommend trying this approach.

    • Mary

      Dr. Perlmutter also recommends removing wheat from our diets. So far I have reduced only.

      • Carol

        I cannot find bread without wheat. Any suggestions?

        • ebm

          YES Carol, I just found it at Walmart accidentally on the “reduced baked goods” shelf expiring the next day!

          UDIS Gluten free makes all kinds of foods gluten, wheat free, etc. even pizza. Too sweet for my taste but available in the freezer section at Target, Publix, Walmart, health stores. The one I bought was multigrain with seeds of flax, chia, etc and was reduced from $4.85 to $1.49. For that price I try anything once, bought 3 loaves to freeze.
          Watch the carbs, lots of white carbs in gluten free, just as in white wheat products.

        • Judi

          Ezekial brand breads (in the freezer section at my local store) are not gluten free, but are made with sprouted grains. A friend of mine who is EXTREMELY gluten sensitive said that he could eat this bread without distress, so I gave it a shot and was delighted to find that it causes me no gastrointestinal distress whatsoever.

          I have no idea why sprouting the grains makes a difference, but it seems to work.


    Yes, I believe in Cod Liver oil, and Omega3. Both help. Right now I’m taking Instaflex too. They prescribe 3 a day… I take one. Can’t use my walker all day, use a chair. But can stand a do a few things and use my walker, of which I wasn’t doing at all. Wanted knee replacements, but at the time got ill and to skip that process. Was doing that ill on, ill off stuff and never got my knee replaced. Only know that Cod Liver Oil and Omega3 help. And I’m in bad shape. Try it. Good Luck

  12. cpmt

    I am diabetic, prednison increases the sugar to dangerous levels (500+) for me (and my doctor didn’t know this side effects !!!). BETTER eat or drink CHERRIES, its juice, frozen, in can/jar etc…ALSO ginger and cinnamon are anti inflammatory


    how many gin soaked raisens do I have to eat daily to help with arthritis?

  14. Mary

    What is the best fish oil for joint pain and how much should be taken?

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