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All the activities of our daily lives – cooking, dancing, painting a picture, or even just taking a walk or dressing – require the movement of bones in relation to each other. These activities should be easy; however, for those afflicted with arthritis, daily tasks and pleasures can be associated with pain and stiffness. For some, movement is all but impossible.
Arthritis, literally “inflammation of the joints,” is a disease of the synovial joints. While arthritis is not a deadly disease, it is, in one form or another, one of the leading causes of disability throughout the world.
The economic costs of arthritis are staggering in terms of medical care and people’s inability to work. In 1992, it was estimated that all forms of arthritis cost the American economy about 65 billion dollars. This figure is expected to rise dramatically as the baby boom generation enters its later years. But though the economic cost of arthritis is sky-high, the personal costs may be even greater. How do you put a dollar figure on the ability to dig your own garden or enjoy an afternoon walk?
Entirely satisfactory treatments for arthritis are not yet available. The most common treatment for osteoarthritis, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), predictably damages the stomach lining when used for a long period of time. Worse yet, NSAIDs may actually accelerate the process of joint damage; further research is needed on this question, but the possibility is troubling. New treatments are being investigated and approved. But at present, people with arthritis are faced with difficult choices among less-than-ideal treatments.
It makes sense that people with arthritis are increasingly open to natural alternative treatments. Any treatment that offers some realistic benefit expands the range of options. While natural treatments such as glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate may not be the “miracle cures” some advocates claim they are, the research available suggests that they can offer significant help. Not only can they reduce symptoms, they may also slow or even stop the usual progressive worsening of osteoarthritis symptoms, according to preliminary evidence. Many other treatments can be helpful as well, from S-adenosylmethio-nine to fish oil.
These natural options are not simply folk medicine or wishful thinking. All the major treatments have been subjected to a significant level of formal scientific scrutiny, and many have become standard treatments in Europe.


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