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Osteoarthritis - considered the most debilitating type of arthritis - seriously reduces quality of life for more than three million Canadians and we can do little to prevent it.

Osteoarthritis considered the most debilitating type of arthritis seriously reduces quality of life for more than three million Canadians and we can do little to prevent it. Osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear on joint cartilage as we grow older. The result is pain and inflammation.

More and more people will become afflicted with osteoarthritis as our population ages. Although NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical, are effective, they have worrying side effects, including indigestion, diarrhea, and ulcers.

According to the American Journal of Cardiology, Celebrex (celecoxib), the most commonly prescribed NSAID, appears to be free of the increased risk of stroke and heart attack attributed to Vioxx, another arthritis medication. These side effects caused Merck to withdraw its medication from use in October 2004. However, studies on Celebrex and cardiovascular risk are limited and contain design flaws. Further research is needed.

Alternatives, Please

Demand for natural alternatives is growing and research is finding new ways to treat joint pain. A 2004 study at the University of California, Irvine, has found that supplementing with S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) reduces the pain of osteoarthritis as effectively as Celebrex, but without the side effects.

SAMe is a naturally occurring compound found in all human tissues that acts as a methyl group donor in over 35 biochemical reactions in the body, including the formation of epinephrine (adrenalin) or creatine (a product of protein metabolism in muscle tissue). SAMe, therefore, is essential for optimal health.

Relieves Knee Pain

Researchers at the U of C-Irvine Department of Family Medicine and Geriatrics studied the effectiveness of SAMe for pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee in a randomized, double-blind crossover trial with 61 adults. Fifty-six participants completed the study. Before the study commenced, participants withheld the use of any anti-inflammatory medicine for one week, called a wash-out period. Then, they were given 600 milligrams of SAMe twice daily for eight weeks. Participants then withheld use of anti-inflammatories for a second one-week wash-out period and commenced another eight weeks, this time with 100 mg of Celebrex twice daily.

Over the two-month testing period, SAMe was found to be as effective in reducing pain as Celebrex. Although quicker at alleviating pain, the effectiveness of Celebrex lessened with time. Admittedly, SAMe did not reduce pain as quickly as Celebrex but it continued to show pain reduction over the two-month treatment period. Mobility and the ability to function without pain improved equally with both SAMe and Celebrex.

As millions of Canadians with osteoarthritis report that control of pain and improved mobility is of greatest importance to them, it's great that research offers new perceptions on how to reduce joint pain. SAMe appears to be a promising natural alternative to the treatment of osteoarthritis.

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