By Kate Wharmby Seldman
Many different treatments and therapies come under the umbrella of alternative medicine. Whereas traditional medicine usually prescribes only a few treatments for a particular ailment, there could be tens of alternative remedies for the same condition.
Let’s take knee pain as an example. Mainstream medicine treats a sore knee as follows: first, rest is prescribed, as well as ice or heat, stretching, and physical therapy. Alternative-medicine aficionados may practice these treatments as well, since they don’t involve medication or surgery. Next, the patient might take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, like ibuprofen. Cortisone shots into the knee are another option to treat inflammation. If all else fails, the patient may undergo arthroscopic surgery, which involves inserting a tiny camera into the knee and using it as a way to view and repair torn ligaments, cartilage, or other issues within the joint.
In terms of alternative medicine, the remedies available are myriad. Acupuncture is popular for knee pain - the needles are inserted into points on the knee in order to open up channels of qi, or life energy, that, when flowing properly, can ease discomfort in the joints. Stomach 36 and Spleen 9 acupuncture points, located around the knees, are important points to use when treating knee pain. Medical science is starting to back up the effects of acupuncture on knee pain: a 1999 study indicated that acupuncture helped osteoarthritis patients build strength and flexibility while relieving pain and stiffness.
Electromagnetic therapy, in which magnets placed on the knee generate pulses of electricity, isn’t widely used anymore, but some studies have suggested it can help relieve pain. More research is needed to see if this therapy really can increase blood flow to the knee, thereby decreasing pain.
Homeopaths prescribe several remedies for knee pain, especially arthritis-related discomfort: these include arnica montana, bryonia alba, ledum palustre, apis mellifica, and rhus toxicodendron. There’s also a homeopathic remedy called osteoarthritic nosode, which is made from the tissue and fluid of an osteoarthritic knee.
Massage can be useful for knee discomfort. Massage therapists work on the areas above and below the knee to try and ease swelling and stiffness. They sometimes also massage the area with ice packs, which supposedly helps stop pain by replacing it with temperature signals instead.
The dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin have helped knee pain sufferers get some relief. One study indicate that oddly, the worse the pain is, the better the supplement is at relieving it: it didn’t work very well for mild to moderate knee pain, but it helped sufferers of severe pain.
Herbal remedies for knee pain include comfrey and aloe vera gel. Another remedy involves wrapping the knee with cabbage leaves, which serve as a mild anti-inflammatory, and then surrounding the leaves with plastic wrap. The patient should leave the wrap on overnight, or change it every four hours when awake.
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