a man with arthritic knees, topical pain relievers, arthritis pain

Do you like to save money? Here’s a little reminder: the sale on our brand new book: Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis will last only until Friday, November 10, 2017. Go to the bottom of this article for the secret discount code!

Do you ever experience a twinge in your knee, shoulder, hip or hand? Tens of millions of people suffer with osteoarthritis (OA). Many of them use over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen to ease stiffness and reduce discomfort. Some people insist that they cannot function without a daily dose of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). They do not believe they will ever suffer side effects. People in pain may not bother to read the cautions or instructions on the label of OTC analgesics. After all, the FDA approved these drugs for sale without a prescription. They must be safe, right? One word answer: NO! Are there alternatives for arthritis that don’t carry the dangers of NSAIDs?

NSAID Lovers:

Many visitors to this website insist that NSAIDs are the only thing keep them going.

Carl is a physician in Charlottesville, VA:

“I am a physician in practice for 35 years. I take 400 of ibuprofen every morning for my mild low back pain. I am otherwise healthy. 400 mg is a modest dose. I have been doing it for a decade (no GI problems).

“Contrary to the recently published evidence on NSAIDs in back pain, it helps a little bit (which is all I really want). I am sure that that getting up and moving is what really helps. I occasionally (every 1-4 wks) take another 200 or 400 mg for different aches or pain (after running 10 miles). If I take more, I notice that nicked skins bleeds a little longer.”

Michelle in Marietta, GA loves ibuprofen:

“I’ve been using 800 Motrin for as long as it’s been available. I remember seeing a Mayo Clinic TV Special and they used it as a first try against pain. It was their go to pain reliever. It ALWAYS helps my pain.”

A tennis player relies on “vitamin I”:

“My tennis partner is very competitive. He goes all in on every shot and beats up his body relentlessly to win every point. Then he suffers. His knees are in bad shape, he has tennis elbow and he frequently starts limping before the end of a match.

“Lately he has started taking big doses of ibuprofen an hour before we play. He calls it his ‘vitamin I.'”

Are NSAIDs a Deal with the Devil?

Many people can take NSAIDs for a few days or even a week or two without getting into trouble. But individuals with osteoarthritis deal with inflammation and chronic pain that lasts for months and years. There are serious problems associated with regular use of NSAIDs (whether they are OTC like ibuprofen and naproxen or prescription like celecoxib, diclofenac or meloxicam).

These drugs can cause potentially serious side effects. Most people are aware of problems like heartburn, stomach pain and even bleeding ulcers. Other adverse reactions include high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Then there is fluid retention, kidney and liver damage, irregular heart rhythms (AFib), heart failure, cardiac arrest and blood disorders. Toxic skin rashes can also occur. These hazards seem abstract and irrelevant to most people. After all, OTC drugs are supposed to be super safe.

The Food and Drug Administration warns health professionals about prescription NSAIDs:

  • “The risk of heart attack or stroke can occur as early as the first weeks of using an NSAID. The risk may increase with longer use of the NSAID.
  • “The risk appears greater at higher doses…
  • “NSAIDs can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke in patients with or without heart disease or risk factors for heart disease…
  • “There is an increased risk of heart failure with NSAID use.”

Adverse NSAID Reactions Reported by Readers:

Because most people assume adverse reactions would never happen to them, here are just a few of the reports we have received from visitors to this website:

Walt in Colorado shared this skin story:

“I took NSAIDs for several years due to chronic low back pain. Later in that period of time I started to develop skin lesions on my face. These were absolutely horrible, everything from bleeding pimple-like sores to open ulcers that would not heal.

“I went to about five different dermatologists, plastic surgeons and GP’s during that time. All were mystified. Yes, I filled out my history accurately but no one drew a connection between NSAID use and skin lesions.

“Then one day I did a search which triggered the association. Do your own search: ‘NSAIDS and skin lesions.’ It’s right there, although a rash is more commonly mentioned than lesions. Most people with this issue get them on their hands and arms, but I got them on my face.”

“Ten days after withdrawing from NSAID use entirely, my skin had cleared. The one GP I ultimately talked to about this afterwards confirmed the diagnosis and noted that he had seen this in the literature but forgotten about it.”

H. in Nottinghamshire, UK, reported kidney toxicity with NSAIDs:

“My brother took diclofenac for 6 months. Previously he had a full check up, including kidneys. They were fine. His doctor prescribed the drug with no advice. There was no warning relating to kidneys on the paperwork that came with the drug. After 6 months of diclofenac his kidney function had been reduced to 25%.”

Bob in Chapel Hill, NC, wrote:

“I had to stop regular use of naproxen because of kidney damage. After 40 years of practice in orthopedic surgery I had to stop what I thought was ‘Safe'”!

Barb in Idaho has a tragic story:

“I will always believe ibuprofen killed my husband. He took an ibuprofen before doing some work in the back yard. He had complained about a backache and was found deceased in the back yard, later that day.”

When someone dies after taking a medication we have heard this response: “He was old and sick and would have died anyway.” Most people do not make a connection between a medication and an unexpected death. Go back and read the FDA’s warning to physicians about NSAIDs.

Mary shared this story about her mother and her mother-in-law:

“Both my mother-in law and my mother almost died from ibuprofen. I told the ambulance drivers I thought my mom was bleeding internally. She was, and almost died.”

Leslie in Chicago recognizes the double bind she is in:

“I suffer from arthritis pain that makes it hard for me to breathe some days. NSAIDs work, but I’m definitely anxious about what I’m doing to my liver and kidneys and the risks of bleeding ulcers or cardiac problems.”

The FDA’s Double Standard:

If a dietary supplement or herb caused any of the side effects listed for NSAIDs, the FDA and the media would be up in arms. Imagine if there were data demonstrating that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, were discovered to cause high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and heart attacks. The FDA would demand it be banned immediately. Obviously, there is a double standard when it comes to NSAIDs.

Alternatives for Arthritis: Finding Safer Options:

Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis

What can people do when they face a challenging trade off between pain relief on the one hand and side effects like bleeding ulcers or kidney damage on the other? That is the reason we wrote Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.

Initially, this was an online resource with videos and links to relevant research. Many people have requested a printed version of this guide. They wanted to be able to hold it in their hands and refer to it frequently. The printed version (Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis) is now hot off the press. This 104-page handy book provides information on a variety of treatments. You will learn about topical NSAIDs such as Pennsaid or Voltaren Gel. Are they safer than oral NSAIDs? Find out on page 25.

You will also learn about:

  • Food Remedies for Arthritis (there are many anti-inflammatory foods) (page 29)
  • The Gin-Raisin Remedy (page 35)
  • Certo and Grape Juice (page 42)
  • Knox Gelatine (page 49)
  • Vinegar and Juice (page 54)
  • Pineapple, aka Bromelain (page 57)
  • Ashwagandha (pasge 60)
  • Boswellia (page 63)
  • Turmeric aka Curcumin (page 66)
  • Ginger (page 72)
  • Stinging Nettle (page 75)
  • Acupuncture (page 81)
  • MSM & SAMe (page 90)

Here is what C.J. in Danville, VA has to say about the electronic version of Alternatives for Arthritis:

“Why isn’t your Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis required reading for all medical students and adults everywhere? There is more common sense in these 119 pages than I’ve found anywhere else.

“Just finished reading it and am blown away at the concise collection of data available of a comparison of drugs to nutritional supplements in alleviating the suffering of the largest segment of society, those over age 50, from arthritis. It all leads back to your first book explaining the growth of the drug industry and how the FDA is kept in check by it.

“Well done, good and faithful servants. You offer a forum for the voices of medical pros that do not sleep with the drug manufacturers. Sorry for the bluntness, but that’s just the fact.”

We appreciate C.J.’s kind words. We are proud of Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis and want to provide early bird buyers of our newest book with a special offer. When you check out use the discount code AA15 to save 15% off the cover price. This sale will only last for two weeks, through November 10, 2017. That leaves only a few more days, so don’t delay.

We welcome your comments below. What do you do for stiff fingers and sore joints? Have you found any remedies that work well without side effects. We would love to hear from you.

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  1. Michael
    Pacific Northwest

    One person said: “Yes, I filled out my history accurately but no one drew a connection between NSAID use and skin lesions.”
    My experience has been that very, very few practitioners actually read patients’ histories.

  2. Nancy Wright B
    Richmond, VA

    I tried to buy your guide on arthritis and could not find a way to implement the code for saving money. Can you help w/that?

  3. Malcolm

    I am 71 years old. I have taken Glucosamine & Chondroitin I get at Wal Mart for almost 20 years. When I stopped for a while I slowly got stiff and achy in my joints, my neck and my hands.I was riding the electric carts at the store. I started it again and in a month it was down to an occasional brief twinge in my thumb or once in a while neck would be stiff when I woke up. A year ago I started using a lot of 95% curcumin on my food. It tastes good and has enabled me to reduce the G&C by two thirds. The psoriasis which had been spreading is now limited to small outbreaks occasionally that fade away after a few days. I don’t feel the arthritis at all now.

  4. WilliamD
    Binghamton, NY

    I am nearing 80 yrs, have had eczema since a child, until a few years ago. My daughter learned in Sweden that she’s gluten-sensitive, so went gluten free.
    I was diagnosed as a child with wheat allergy, but at that time there was little
    that could be done. I was told essentially to ‘tough it out’. So I decided to try going gluten-free. In about two months, my eczema cleared up completely, and has not returned. What a relief. No more raw itchy patches, sleepless nights, sticky salves.

  5. Charles
    Ft worth Rx

    I have found DMSO to be very helpful for arthritis pain and inflamed bursas of the hip and knee. I take eloquis blood thinner so almost every anti inflammatory is off limits. Does DMSO affect blood thinners? Are there side effects I am in aware of?

  6. Jim C.
    South Jersey

    Edible Marijuana works. I take it before breakfast. It lasts for about 20 hours, not overdoing it.

    This medical addition should made available to all that suffer from arthritis. I was on infusion every six weeks. I placed Orencia on hold to if their was difference and yes their is.

  7. Mary D.

    Have taken nothing orally for pain in over two years since I started using a cannibis cream made privately by a friend who grows her own cannabis.

    Had been prescribed OxyContin and gabapentin by my back doctor for severe arthritis of the back. The only time I use it for my back now is when I feel any tightness which I fear could be a precursor to pain. It is wonderful to sleep through the night!

    I understand the pharmaceutical industry is poised to start with their versions. Oh, dear!

  8. Katherine
    Greensboro NC

    My elderly mother took Motrin and/or Advil daily for years. She took very few other drugs, mainly Synthroid. One day she started vomiting, it continued for hours, even projectile vomiting. It was brown and smelly. In the hospital the doctor told me her stomach and intestines had disintegrated due to her history of taking NSAIDS.

  9. Dori

    I am 81 and have severe arthritis pain. I am quite sensitive to chemicals and medications, and more often than not I will experience side effects when taking them. So what to do for my back pain that limits my ability to stand or walk? A month ago, I discovered CBD oil (made from hemp) which has reduced my pain level to the point that I can walk several blocks without pain and I only need to take it twice a day. I have had not side effects, and it doesn’t make a person “high” like MMJ does. Legal in all states. I feel like I have been handed a miracle. The only downside I found is that there are a lot of ripoffs out there, so you have to be careful what you buy.

  10. Jill
    Madison, WI

    I developed colitis from the use of NSAIDs. I had been taking them around the clock for my osteoarthritis and had to stop taking them. I too, was worried that acetaminophen wouldn’t be enough. But in my case, I think I had developed a mental dependency on NSAIDs. I did find acetaminophen worked fine and have been taking an 8 hr. arthritis pain relief form. But I became concerned about my habitual use and effects on my liver. Now I just take the arthritis formula at bedtime and a regular acetaminophen during the day and it works for me.

    As with many things, there isn’t just one answer. I also made big changes in my diet, eating organic food as much as possible, started walking and paying a lot more attention to being healthful. It has made a tremendous difference.

  11. Nancy
    Garner, NC

    I recently stopped Celebrex after years of use because I had developed GI problems. Just now reading through the symptoms of NSAID issues “fluid retention” got my attention. I have just been diagnosed with NPH and there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for adults getting Hydrocephalus. I thought I was developing Alzheimers. And after numerous falls I was sent for an MRI and that revealed the pressure in my brain. Wondering if others have had the same experience.

  12. Rita

    I have a question about the gin-raisin remedy. If tart cherries are also good against arthritis pain, would it work to use gin-soaked dried tart cherries instead of raisins? I’m not in the habit of drinking sweet beverages or fruit juice, so I often forget to drink the tart cherry juice I buy. I’ve found it easier to eat dried cherries. Would soaking them in gin up the ante?

  13. O.G.

    Sorry to be on the negative side, but I have found nothing (after NSAIDs tore up my stomach) that will do much for my osteoarthriris. Ginger is the one thing that brings a little relief, as does hemp oil (CBD), but aside from that… nothing relieves the severe stiffness and aches.

    I’ve tried every one of the “alternative” suggestions except for those that would raise my blood sugar (I’m an adult-onset Type 1 diabetic), since I follow a very low-carb diet in addition to my insulin. Nothing is as effective as the old
    Vioxx — which, I say with the 20/20 of hindsight — was probably the beginning of my GI unpleasantness.

  14. Lee

    Why do you ignore aspirin as a safe NSAID? You, and the majority of the health care community seem to blindly accept the drug company propaganda that aspirin causes ulcers, has other dangerous side effects and is not as effective as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. British studies and others demonstrate that “information” to be false and most likely driven by competitive marketing issues, not science. Aspirin is just not very profitable and U.S. drug companies have clearly shown that their primary (sole?) objective is profit, NOT the welfare of its customers. The constant flow of obscenely overpriced drugs with serious, sometimes deadly side-effects is proof of this. Although a case of one does not constitute proof, I’ve taken 2, 325mg. aspirin daily for almost 40 years with only benefits and no harm. Aspirin has also shown anti-viral, anti-cancer and heart disease benefits. Why do you ignore it?

    • Joe Graedon


      We love aspirin. It is truly a wonder drug. In fact, we wrote the book on aspirin. “The Aspirin Handbook: A User’s Guide to the Breakthrough Drug of the 90s” was published in 1993. We have written about the many benefits of aspirin on this website and in our syndicated newspaper column.

      That said, aspirin does have some serious side effects. It can cause stomach ulcers and even bleeding or perforated ulcers. Aspirin can also interact with other drugs. Like all medicines, aspirin has pros and cons. Some people cannot tolerate it.

  15. Linda

    I would love to have the Graeden’s learn about the HUGE benefits of a digestive enzyme called Serrapeptase researched and developed by Dr Hans Napier, a famous German heart doctor. It is from the proteins in the stomach of the silkworm. MARVELOUS for arthritis but it is known for eating dead tissue and eliminating through body function. It eats plaque, scar tissue and also the mucus in nose and lungs. A lot of women get rid of fibroids with this digestive enzyme. It is a natural body cleanser.

    I have a lot of scars including a 66 year old appendix scar and you can barely see them….so if you have raised scars around nerves that equals pain.

    I would urge you to read and research from Serrapeptase.info or Serrapeptase.org or Regenerative Nutrition or get Dr Napier’s book if you can find one. DR NAPIER WAS WELL KNOWN IN EUROPE FOR TESTING SERRAPEPTASE ON HIS HEART PATIENTS THAT WERE GOING TO REQUIRE BYPASSES DUE TO PLAQUE AND INSTEAD WOULD GIVE THEM DOSES IF HIS ENZYME AND NEVER HAVE TO DO HEART BYPASSES.

    Another source of commentaries is reading comments on Amazon purchases of Serrapeptase.

    I had to have an ulnar nerve transposition and a Guyon Canal release in 2009. I was told pre surgery that moving the nerve would cause a great deal of pain and to take Oxy and Hydro for about a month.

    Thank God I accidentally came across an article about this amazing enzyme. Seems like people in the US had little knowledge of it and had trouble finding it but did. I only took the Oxy and hydro the first day and discontinued depending on this.

    The only caution i have read if is it does thin the blood somewhat but I feel it is far healthier than even aspirin.

    It really helps a lot with pain.

  16. Lakshmi Krishnamurthy

    I had excrutiating pain in my left hip which turned out to be arthritis. The doctor suggested a steroid shot, which helped for a few weeks. I did not want to go back for more. Research led me to turmeric.. i found organic turmeric powder and take 1 teaspoon in 4 oz water first thing in the morning. Viola, no pain!

    Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and clean and cheap. One person who uses it told me his sweat smells different! I have no adverse effect. I suggested it to one of my friends and his eczema-like patch cleared up. A lot of our problems are due to inflammation and turmeric should be a regular ingredient in our diet.

  17. Fred
    Durham NC

    I have idiopathic peripheral neuropathy and OA in my hands and feet. Constant pain. I had to give up golf and have my wife open jars for me! I had a knuckle surgically replaced and was told I needed more. I tried gabapentin and quit in a couple days due to side effects. I knew of the problems with NSAIDs so I stayed away from them. I just toughed it out and figured this is part of aging (I’m 72). Several months ago, I learned of CBD oil and gave it a try. Magic! I am back to golf twice a week, can open jars, use tools–and am aware of no side effects. This is legal and is NOT marijuana–has no psychotic effect at all (wish it did!), except that my mood is much better since I am enjoying life again. Read up on it–there’s a lot of research and tons of anecdotes like mine available.

  18. Melody
    Norman, OK

    Why do you not mention aspirin when talking of NSAIDS? And what about aspirin’s predecessor, willow bark? How is willow bark different from aspirin?

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