New Hope For Arthritis Sufferers
Dr. Thomas Patavino D.C., MS, F.I.A.M.A.


             Without question, it has become a trying time for those who suffer from arthritis. Not only do patients have to contend with unrelenting pain and stiffness, but the question of safety of their medications.  The last couple of months have been nothing short of alarming for patients that are regular users of some of the most highly prescribed pain management medications. September press releases from the FDA issued cautionary warnings concerning the use of Bextra and Celebrex. Long-term use and exceeding the recommended dosages showed a significant increase in the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Not long after, Vioxx was pulled from the market with similar concerns for the safety of those taking the popular medication. Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra all belong to a class of drugs called the cox-2 inhibitors. They are named for specific enzymes that are blocked along the pathway that leads to pain and inflammation. They were introduced as an alternative to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drug class that was widely used for pain control, but carried high risks for stomach bleeding. Many physicians preferred the cox-2 medications because they were seemingly friendlier for long- term use in patients who suffered chronic pain.

                If the warnings for Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra weren't alarming enough, a fourth medicine is raising eyebrows concerning the safety of its long-term use. Naproxen, the active ingredient in Aleve has been linked to increasing the risk of heart complications. Chronic pain and arthritis suffers are at a loss with what to do about their conditions. With the growing concerns of safety, patients and doctors are in a difficult position. Now, more than ever, one must weigh the risks versus the benefits when approaching their pain management. It was no surprise with all the current concerns that studies and research would explore safer alternative treatment options.

               In the midst of all the negativity, it was refreshing to hear some positive news as it relates to arthritis relief. CBS Early Show released the results of a study demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for arthritis relief.  The University of Maryland School of Medicine tested the effectiveness of acupuncture on 570 patients with arthritis of the knee and found not only a significant decrease in pain, but also an improvement in function. This was ground breaking news as many alternative health studies often fail to receive the funding or exposure to receive the recognition they deserve as viable treatment options. More importantly, arthritis suffers now may find relief with a safe treatment that doesn't possess the associated health risks that have been discovered with other methods of care.

             Acupuncture is a safe, bloodless and surprisingly painless procedure that has been utilized for over 5000 years. Tiny needles not much thicker than a human hair are specifically placed on points of the body. The positioning of the needles are believed to stimulate the body to release natural chemicals to dull pain and restore natural energy flow to promote healing. Typically treatment sessions last between 20 and 30 minutes and are recommended 2 to 3 times a week initially for optimum results. Once pain is reduced and function is improved, occasional treatments are recommended to maintain arthritis management.

              Despite the negative media surrounding popular medications it is important to remember to discuss any questions with your physician. The prescription medications have helped many people, but they must be used correctly and with moderation. Potentially, some people are at greater risk to develop secondary health complications than others based on past medical history and familial pre-disposition for cardiovascular conditions. It is promising that alternative medicine is not only gaining exposure as a safe treatment option, but receiving an interest to generate future studies exploring greater possibilities.