Alternatitves to surgery may help some arthritis sufferers

It causes pain, stiffness and immobility. When you have osteoarthritis, every single step can be a struggle. There are invasive surgeries and drugs with a long list of side effects that most patients try to avoid. Now we'll show you arthritis alternative therapies that really work.

As a youth orchestra conductor, Dorothy Kitchen was used to being on her feet all day. But then knee arthritis struck.

"I sit now, instead of stand, when I conduct," she said.

Kitchen is determined not to have surgery and only takes medications if she's really in pain.

"I'm not a pill-taker," Kitchen said.

But one thing that has helped is massage.

"I feel more alive, my legs feel mobile," Kitchen said.

Dr. Adam Perlman of Duke University launched a pilot study on massage for knee osteoarthritis.  Patients who had massages twice a week for a month and then once a week for another month, had less pain, better range of motion and faster walking speeds.

"And that improvement actually persisted eight weeks after massage was finished," said Perlman.

Another alternative is acupuncture.

"There is very interesting data suggesting that acupuncture can be effective particularly for arthritis of the knee," Perlman said.

In one study, 25 percent of arthritis patients who were scheduled for knee surgery cancelled their procedures after acupuncture. Then there's Glucosamine.

"The studies are conflicting about glucosamine," Dr. Perlman said.

Most studies show Glucosamine Sulfate at 1,500 milligrams a day can help but Glucosamine Hydrochloride is most commonly sold in the U.S does not.

Finally fight pain by losing weight. Every pound you lose means four pounds less pressure on your knees. That's what works for Kitchen, taking daily walks and massage.

"This will be wonderful! I'll feel good all afternoon," Kitchen said.

Experts used to believe exercise made arthritis worse, but now they believe the opposite is true. Swedish researchers looked at exercise, including jogging, in patients at risk for arthritis. After imaging the joints of the participants, they found that the biochemistry of cartilage actually appeared to improve in those who jogged.  Some believe that exercise can stimulate cartilage to repair minor damage.  As always, talk to your doctor before trying anything new.