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What to Do About Arthritis Pain When NSAIDs Are Out

Do you suffer from sore joints? Perhaps you are dealing with arthritis pain. What if NSAIDs are out because they irritate your stomach?

Tens of millions of people suffer constant arthritis pain. Many of them have severe joint deterioration. The usual recommendation is to take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). You know: ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, celecoxib, meloxicam, etc. The trouble is that such drugs can wreak havoc with the digestive tract. What can you do to help control the pain if NSAIDs are out of the picture?

Can Natural Products Ease Arthritis Pain?

Q. About a year ago, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my neck. Recently, the pain has been unbearable.

My treatment options are limited since I have ulcerative colitis. As a result, NSAIDs are out.

My chiropractor recommended an all-natural COX-2 inhibitor, which I found online. The primary ingredients are turmeric and boswellia. He claims that I can take it indefinitely without any side effects or problems. What information do you have on this?

Turmeric Helps Fight Inflammation:

A. Turmeric contains an active compound, curcumin, with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. A randomized placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that the combination of curcumin with boswellic acid is effective for easing arthritis pain (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Jan. 9, 2018).

Your chiropractor was a bit cavalier about side effects, however. Most people do not have problems, but some develop digestive distress while others experience a nasty rash. We worry about uncommon but serious problems such as liver injury. In addition, anyone taking the anticoagulant warfarin should avoid turmeric.

Boswellia appears to have fewer disadvantages, but it too can cause heartburn and may trigger hot flashes.

To learn more about these and many other approaches for managing joint pain without NSAIDs, we suggest our 100-page book, The Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.

Pain Relief That Won’t Hurt Digestive Tract:

Q. I have severe arthritis in both knees and my spine. The pain wakes me several times a night.

I cannot take NSAIDs because I have had a bleeding ulcer from such drugs. I needed blood transfusion a few years back because of these pain relievers.

Medicare won’t pay for chiropractors or massage. My doctor won’t prescribe opioids. What else can I do for the pain?

Arthritis Pain vs. Bleeding Ulcers:

A. You are in a classic double bind situation. Traditional NSAID pain relievers are out because of your history of life-threatening ulcers. Even topical NSAIDS such as Voltaren Gel (diclofenac) may not be safe for you.

Non-Drug Alternatives for Arthritis Pain:

Anti-inflammatory herbs such as Ashwagandha, boswellia or curcumin may provide relief. So too might non-drug remedies such as Knox gelatin, gin-soaked raisins or Certo and grape juice. You’ll have to try these for several weeks to tell whether or not you get a good response.

Stories from Readers:

Joyce weighs in on a simple home remedy:

“I have been adding 2 Tablespoons of Certo to 5-6 oz of grape juice for arthritis daily and I believe it helps. Courtesy of Peoples Pharmacy.”

Diane in upstate New York has an interesting combination approach:

“We’ve been combining tart cherry juice and gelatin for years to help with my knee arthritis and my husband’s hand arthritis. We sometimes add seltzer water to the tart cherry juice to help cut the high sugar content–very delicious–but don’t plan on adding gelatin to this–very foamy!

“For other ways of incorporating gelatin, I find that putting gelatin in non-dairy yogurts also works well (these yogurts tend to be more “runny” than regular dairy yogurts). My husband often puts gelatin right into his hot, black coffee.

“I have severe (bone on bone) arthritis in both knees but still stay very active. I think that the tart cherry juice and gelatin use is part of my success story.”

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.”

You can learn more about these and other natural approaches in our 104-page book, Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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