Turmeric may help reduce pain for people with knee osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis is a condition when the natural cushioning between knee joints (cartilage) wears away. Although it is commonly known as wear-and-tear arthritis, young people can get it too and it may even be hereditary. Knee osteoarthritis causes pain, which is usually addressed with paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Now scientists from the University of Tasmania say that turmeric may offer another good pain management option.

Knee osteoarthritis is a very common condition, affecting both young and old people. Image credit: Silar via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is used for food, but has long been known for its medicinal properties. Knee osteoarthritis can be hereditary, caused by an injury, extensive physical activity that wears on knees, obesity and some other conditions. Because cartilage is a natural cushioning between joints, once it’s gone, bones start rubbing together causing a lot of pain and discomfort. Knee osteoarthritis is incredibly common and yet there are no approved disease-modifying drugs currently available to treat it. But why turmeric could be a good option?

Scientists invited 70 people with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis to participate in this study. Each of them got two capsules per day – some got turmeric, others – placebo. This experiment lasted for 12 weeks and scientists wanted to see if turmeric helps reduce swelling and pain in the knees of these patients. Scientists assessed each patient with questionnaires and MRI tests. They found that after 12 weeks turmeric group patients felt less pain than those in the placebo group. Furthermore, they felt no adverse side effects of those capsules.

At the same time turmeric did not change the structural aspects of knee osteoarthritis, such as swelling or cartilage composition. This means that even though it worked to reduce the pain, it is not a disease-modifying drug. The advantage of it is that it allowed people to consume less actual pain medications that can cause severe adverse side effects and turmeric is natural and cheap.

Rheumatologist Professor Graeme Jones, who also participated in the study, said: “Despite the positive findings, due to the modest effect of the turmeric, small sample size of the study, short-duration of follow-up and the single research centre, the researchers suggest that multicentre trials with larger sample sizes and longer duration of follow-up are needed to assess the clinical significance of their findings.”

So, as usual, more research is needed. These findings are quite significant, because they literally could help millions of people suffering from the knee osteoarthritis. Turmeric could help reduce pain and at the same time staying away from addictive and/or health damaging pain killers. 


Source: University of Tasmania

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