Osteoarthritis: How to manage your pain and have a better quality of life

osteoarthritis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Osteoarthritis: How to manage your pain and have a better quality of life

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND


An estimated 10% of Canadians over the age of 15 live with a diagnosis of osteoarthritis [OA] (1). 70% of these Canadians experience the majority of their arthritic symptoms in their hips and knees (1). Unfortunately, among Canadians with a diagnosis of arthritis, the average time between onset of their symptoms and an accurate diagnosis can be up to 7.7 years (1). This period of time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis of the disease could be spent making dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce pain and improve quality of life. By 2036 an estimated 7.5 million Canadian adults will have a diagnosis of OA.


So what are the symptoms of OA? Increased stress and aging of our joints leads to breakdown of joint tissue known as cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones of our joints, and without it bones begin to rub against each other. When cartilage is sufficiently worn down, joints are left with bone-on-bone contact; limiting range of motion. As a result, people with OA experience pain, stiffness, and swelling in their affected joints (2).


Lifestyle treatments for OA aim to reduce further injury, relieve pain, and improve joint function. Some of these treatments are as simple as self-management; avoiding repetitive stress on the affected joints. For example, musicians and dancers place repetitive stress on their joints, and they may be at higher risk of developing OA. Obese Canadians are also at risk for OA, and adhering to a lifestyle plan of healthy eating and weight management will help to reduce the pain and damage of OA. Deep breathing and massage therapy can help to relax tense muscles around an inflamed and stiff joint (2). In some cases, joint replacement surgery is required to limit the damage of OA and provide a better quality of life.


So how can naturopathic medicine help with the prognosis of OA?


Naturopathic doctors are able to provide acupuncture, which has been shown to help with the pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion observed in OA.


Curcumin, a strong anti-inflammatory component of the spice turmeric, may help to reduce the pain and stiffness of OA (3,4). Curcumin has also been shown to be an effective remedy to alleviate symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis.


Fish oil also has great evidence for use as a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in OA (5).


Certain people also benefit from a hypoallergenic diet; cutting out potentially aggravating foods that may be contributing to pain and dysfunction.


Finally, for topical pain relief, boswellia serrata AKA frankincense oil mixed with your favourite carrier oil (think sweet almond, olive, coconut, etc) and applied to your affected joints daily may help reduce inflammation and pain (6). In one study of 30 patients with OA of the knee, 8 weeks of boswellia extract significantly improved knee pain, swelling, range of motion, and walking distance compared to placebo (7).


If you are interested in learning more about how naturopathic medicine can benefit your arthritis, please book a visit with your local naturopathic doctor.




  1. MacDonald KV, et al. Symptom onset, diagnosis and management of osteoarthritis. Stats Can Sept 2014.
  2. accessed Sept 5, 2017.
  3. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Dugall M, et al. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev. 2010:15(4):337-344.
  4. Nakagawa Y, Mukai S, Yamada S, et al. Short-term effects of highly bioavailable curcumin for treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective study. J Orthop Sci. 2014;19(6):933-939.
  5. Chen Y, Huang YC, Lu WW. Low-dose versus high-dose fish oil for pain reduction and function improvement in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2016;75(1):e7.
  6. Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R: Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee—a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2003, 10:3–7.
  7. Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis on knee-a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:3–7.

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