Everyone’s heard the saying that you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. Pain-free movement is definitely something most people take for granted. When a person suffering from hip pain is looking for a natural pain management option, there are two major choices that can provide drug-free hip pain relief: supplements and acupuncture.
What are the most popular vitamin supplements for hip pain?
Perhaps the most well-known supplement for healthy joints is glucosamine chondroitin.
Glucosamine chondroitin supplements are readily available, often recommended, and given to individuals of all sorts, from old to young and human to animal. Although usually formulated as one inclusive supplement, glucosamine and chondroitin are actually two separate substances.
Glucosamine sulfate is naturally occurring in the body, as well as in organisms like shellfish. It’s also possible to produce glucosamine in a laboratory. In the body, glucosamine helps produce chemicals that build tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and the fluid that encapsulates joints. Multiple forms of glucosamine are available, but the body also requires sulfate to produce cartilage. For this reason, some researchers think that glucosamine sulfate is superior to other forms, such as glucosamine hydrochloride or N-acetyl glucosamine.
Some research suggests that glucosamine sulfate can provide hip pain relief from osteoarthritis pain just as well as over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, while NSAIDs can usually provide relief within two weeks, and often much sooner, glucosamine sulfate can take up to eight weeks to take full effect. Unlike NSAIDs, though, some studies have indicated that glucosamine can slow the progression of joint degeneration, in addition to treating pain, and use of glucosamine might lessen the chance that joint replacement surgery will eventually be required.
Often paired with glucosamine is chondroitin. It, too, occurs naturally in the body and can be found in connective tissues. Research about the benefits of chondroitin is mixed, but some studies suggest that chondroitin supplements are, indeed, helpful in managing pain and increasing joint mobility. Recent studies of the effectiveness of chondroitin have been inconclusive, though, and the best many medical professionals are willing to admit is that it “may reduce arthritis pain slightly.”
Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin are both very low risk supplements for leg pain, but people with asthma or shellfish allergies or pregnant women should avoid them. Additionally, there are some serious possible interactions with other drugs, so it’s advisable to talk to a physician before starting a new supplement.
Herbal supplements for hip pain relief from arthritis
Some herbal supplements can provide hip pain relief from arthritis.
The boswellia serrata supplement is derived from Indian frankincense, and boswellia resin has been used to treat chronic inflammatory conditions in African and Asian folk medicine for centuries. In addition to its anti-inflammatory abilities, some people believe that boswellia might be effective as a painkiller and for preventing the loss of cartilage in joints. Because of these properties, boswellia supplements have the potential to be extremely beneficial for those suffering from hip and leg pain related to arthritis.
Another herbal supplement, devil’s claw, may also provide relief from osteoarthritis pain. The roots and tubers of the devil’s claw herb are used to make supplements for leg pain, and research suggests that it can aid in managing osteoarthritis pain. It’s believed that devil’s claw does this by reducing the inflammation that accompanies osteoarthritis and causes pain. Generally, it can take about 16 weeks for devil’s claw supplements to make a noticeable difference in osteoarthritis pain. There is insufficient evidence to suggest whether or not devil’s claw can provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Both boswellia serrata and devil’s claw supplements have some risks. Perhaps most notably, boswellia can stimulate menstruation and cause miscarriage, and devil’s claw can cause changes in blood pressure, so neither should be taken by pregnant women. Because both supplements can interact negatively with other drugs, a physician should be consulted before beginning either.
Supplements for hip pain from cramps
Some supplements can also provide hip pain relief from painful leg cramps.
Supplements for hip pain containing B-vitamins have been found very helpful in treating leg cramps. In a study in Taipei, researchers found that 86% of elderly patients suffering from nocturnal leg cramps experienced relief after taking a supplement containing the following ingredients:
- 250 mcg of B12
- 30 mg of B6
- 5 mg of riboflavin
- 50 mg of thiamine
Based on these results, some physicians may suggest a supplement containing B-vitamins to counteract persistent leg cramps. These supplements are often labeled as a “Super B-Complex” or, sometimes, “Super B-Complex with Folic Acid.” Folic acid is another B-vitamin, and since riboflavin and thiamine are both B-vitamins, too, they’re also included in these supplements. Like most supplements, there is a risk of drug interaction or side effects from B-complex supplements, but they are quite low-risk.
Supplements containing the drug quinine are also sometimes mentioned for the treatment of nighttime leg cramps, but this is no longer suggested by current medical information. Quinine’s original use was the treatment of malaria. It is a very high-risk drug, with the possibilities of serious drug interactions, abnormal heart rhythms, severe hypersensitivity, or blood platelet disorders that can cause hemorrhaging.
Between 1969 and 2006, 665 serious adverse events were reported for quinine use, including 93 deaths. Until recently, quinine was sometimes prescribed to treat leg cramps, but because of the severe risks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now only allows the prescription of quinine to treat malaria. Despite this, it is still possible to obtain supplements containing quinine for leg cramps. However, these are not FDA approved. Because of the high risks involved, supplements containing quinine are not recommended.
How can acupuncture help with hip pain?
Most treatments and therapies for hip pain, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or hip replacement surgery, are relatively modern. However, one form of treatment has existed for over 2,500 years: acupuncture, or the insertion of thin needles at specific points.
This therapy first gained attention in the United States after President Nixon visited China in the 1970s and his personal physician saw the benefits of acupuncture. Since then, acupuncture has steadily increased in popularity. Studies have been conducted concerning the ability of acupuncture to treat conditions such as nausea, addiction, and asthma, but the most common reason for pursuing acupuncture treatment is pain.
How does acupuncture work?
Multiple theories exist explaining why acupuncture is an effective treatment.
Traditional Chinese acupuncture was devised based on the premise that energy called Qi or Chi (pronounced “chee”) flows through the body along meridians. Disruptions of the energy flow are thought to lead to disease or painful conditions. Recent studies have suggested other possible reasons for acupuncture’s effectiveness.
Three of the central theories concerning the reasons for acupuncture’s success are:
- The insertion of needles along the body’s meridians corrects disrupted energy flow and restores balance to the body
- The needles stimulate muscles and nerves, which alert the central nervous system and cause the release of pain-relieving endorphins and neurotransmitters
- Some acupuncturists theorize that muscles are connected by “myofascial chains” through the sheath-like fascia around muscles, so that stimulating an acupuncture point in one area might transmit a message along the fascia and affect an entirely different part of the body
Acupuncture for hip pain relief
Although researchers don’t agree on why acupuncture works, it is generally agreed upon that acupuncture is a viable treatment for hip pain relief.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) suggests that seven out of ten individuals who pursue acupuncture treatment do so because of pain. A survey conducted in 2007 showed than an estimated 3.1 million U.S. citizens used acupuncture treatment over the previous year. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic had this to say regarding acupuncture:
“Although acupuncture is not a “cure-all” treatment, it is very effective in treating several diseases and conditions. Acupuncture is most effective at treating chronic pain, such as headaches, menstrual cramps and low back, neck or muscle pain. It can also be used to treat osteoarthritis, facial pain, spastic colon, and repetitive strain conditions.”
This suggests that acupuncture is a realistic treatment for many types of pain, as well as for some of the specific types of hip pain like osteoarthritis and muscle strain. A 2011 article, published by Acupuncture Today, also focused solely on the ability of acupuncture to treat hip pain from osteoarthritis. According to the article, acupuncture can provide relief for as many as 75% of people suffering from mild to moderate osteoarthritis-related hip pain.
Additionally, if a hip pain condition should necessitate surgery, acupuncture has been proven as very effective for the treatment of post-operative nausea. In some cases, acupuncture has also been utilized to help with post-operative physical therapy, which is a necessity of hip replacement surgery.
What are acupuncture risk factors?
Acupuncture has less associated risks than most hip pain treatments.
The first attempt at finding hip pain relief is usually medication, like NSAIDs or opioids. However, all medications have potential side effects, such as nausea or dependency. For most individuals, acupuncture has very few risks. Soreness, along with minor bruising or bleeding, is possible with any procedure involving needles, and acupuncture is no different.
Another potential risk of acupuncture is infection. If the needles are contaminated beforehand, that contamination can be transmitted to the person undergoing acupuncture. However, licensed acupuncturists are required by law to use sterile, disposable needles, so this is very unlikely when the procedure is performed by a reputable professional.
Organ damage is also a risk of acupuncture, because if the needles are pushed in too far, they can pierce the organs. However, this is extremely rare for practiced acupuncturists. For acupuncture treatment of hip pain, particularly, organ damage is unlikely, since most of the acupuncture points used to treat hip pain are over bone and muscle, not organs.
There are some individuals who are not good candidates for acupuncture. For example, people who are on blood thinners and at a high risk of bleeding should hesitate before undergoing acupuncture. Some forms of acupuncture use light electrical charges, so people who have any sort of implanted electrical device, like a pacemaker or spinal cord stimulator (SCS), should also be careful. To make sure that acupuncture is a safe treatment for an individual’s hip pain, he or she should discuss it both with his or her physician and with a potential acupuncturist.
Finding an acupuncturist
Physicians are often able to suggest reputable acupuncturists, and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) provides a searchable database of certified professionals. Additionally, an increasing number of insurance providers are covering acupuncture treatment, so an insurance agent might be able to provide a list of trusted acupuncturists.
Because of the benefits of acupuncture, it’s worth considering.
A big benefit of acupuncture is the low number of risks associated with it. Another plus for acupuncture is that it’s a quick and convenient treatment for hip pain. A typical schedule to find hip pain relief includes two to three procedures per week, for about six weeks. During each treatment, the needles will often be left in place for 15 to 30 minutes. After the acupuncture procedure, it’s possible to return immediately to normal daily life.
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