On studies supporting some alternative therapies for osteoarthritis
A variety of supplements and herbs and other alternative therapies have been employed by patients with osteoarthritis, with some anecdotal reports of efficacy, but few organized clinical trials have been done to confirm these anecdotes. In recent years, at least two supplements have been studied in controlled trials that have yielded positive results.
One of these substances is a combination of avocado and soybeans. A French study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism in 1998 reported the results of a study involving 164 patients with osteoarthritis of either the knee or hip. The patients were treated for six months and then followed for another two. The patients were assigned to take either avocado/soybean or placebo. Patients were assessed for improvements in function and decreases in pain. The avocado group saw its functional assessment on something known as the Lequesne scale drop from an average of 9.7 to 6.8, compared to the placebo group, which went from 9.4 to only 8.9 (lower numbers are better on that scale). Pain dropped for the avocado group from 56.1 to 35.3 and from 56.1 to only 45.7 in the placebo group. The patients with hip osteoarthritis seemed to derive the most benefit, and no patients experienced significant adverse effects. These results prompted other investigators to look at this relatively benign treatment. In the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology in 2001, Belgian researchers published a study of patients with knee osteoarthritis aged 45 to 80 years. They assigned patients to take either 300 or 600 milligrams of the avocado/soybean combination or placebo. They monitored the patients' need to take nonsteroidal medications for their arthritis pain while in the study. 71% of the patients taking the avocado preparation reduced their intake of nonsteroidals and other pain relievers by 50% during the trial. No significant difference in efficacy was noted between the 300 and 600 milligram doses of the avocado preparation.
A study published in the July 2000 issue of the American Journal of Medicine noted that willow bark extract was efficacious in the treatment of low back pain. Nearly 200 patients were assigned to three groups, high dose willow bark, low dose willow bark and placebo. At the end of the study, 39% of the high dose group were pain free, compared to 21% of the low dose group and only 6% of the placebo group. One of the willow bark patients experienced a significant allergic reaction, but there were few other adverse effects.
Prompted by such results, German researchers studied the use of willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis. 78 patients with osteoarthritis were assigned to take either willow bark or placebo for two weeks. Using a pain scale called the WOMAC scale, the investigators found that the willow bark patients reported a 14% decrease in their pain, as compared to only 2% of the placebo patients. Few adverse effects were noted in this study.
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