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Curcumin has proven anti-inflammatory effects, and new research confirms that curcumin supplementation is an effective tool for pain management in patients with knee osteoarthritis
Research from the City Care Accident Hospital in Parli Vaijnath, Maharashtra, India, indicates that curcumin, a polyphenolic curcuminoid found in turmeric, is a safe and effective treatment for knee osteoarthritis.[i] Specifically, researchers determined that curcumin was equally effective as, but better tolerated than, diclofenac, a popular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) often used to treat knee osteoarthritis.
Current Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis
Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a degeneration of joint cartilage that affects the bones, cartilage and thin synovium membrane surrounding the knee joint, characterized by stiffness, pain and immobility.
Knee osteoarthritis is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, and is especially prevalent in older adults and those who are obese.[ii] The prevalent nature of the disease makes researchers eager to find pain management therapies that are safe and effective.
Current conventional pain management recommendations for knee OA include the NSAID diclofenac. Diclofenac is often used to treat mild to moderate pain associated with arthritis and osteoarthritis but offers only temporary pain relief.
Additionally, diclofenac is an ineffective and unsafe long-term treatment for chronic pain associated with knee OA, as continual use of diclofenac can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, gastrointestinal ulcer formation, and increase cardiovascular risk.[iii] [iv]
For this reason, researchers are eager to find a natural, effective treatment for knee OA that doesn't present such serious health implications. Curcumin, long studied for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, is a logical substitute. Questions about the efficacy of curcumin included its lack of bioavailability and gastrointestinal effects compared to NSAIDS like diclofenac.
This is not the first study to test the efficacy of curcuminoids compared to standard pain medication. GreenMedinfo has compiled over 2,500 abstracts on the use of curcumin, including for pain relief. Previously, we've also researched the dangers of medications for pain management of arthritis and the viability of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing supplement.
Study Results: Curcumin for Safer and More Effective Pain Management
To test the efficacy of curcumin as a pain prevention method, patients were evaluated every two weeks for improvement in pain intensity using a visual analog scale (VAS), a standardized and clinically validated test for measuring acute and chronic pain.[v] Patients in the first group were given 500-milligram (mg) doses of curcumin three times daily, while the second group was given 50 mg of diclofenac twice daily.
At the end of the study, both treatment groups showed improvement in VAS pain scores, but patients receiving curcumin experienced fewer gastrointestinal effects and other benefits compared to those receiving diclofenac -- specifically, patients experienced less flatulence, an anti-ulcer effect and greater weight loss while taking curcumin.
Those receiving curcumin needed no H2 blockers during the study, while diclofenac patients did. H2 blockers are a type of medication that works to reduce stomach acid and prevent the formation of gastric ulcers. This is of significance because it indicates the anti-ulcer effects of curcumin.
Because NSAIDS, including diclofenac, are known to have gastrointestinal side effects such as intestinal bleeding, ulcers and flatulence, curcumin is a favorable alternative to commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs.[vi] [vii]
Curcumin's ability to support weight loss may also present an additional benefit to knee OA patients. Obesity is a concern among knee OA patients and causes excess strain on joints, but it can be difficult for OA patients to lose weight when pain restricts their mobility or ability to exercise.
This vicious cycle could be alleviated by curcumin supplementation, which could help reduce weight while improving pain and allowing patients greater movement.
Overall, researchers determined that curcumin supplementation has a similar effect on pain relief in patients with knee OA as does diclofenac, with curcumin presenting additional benefits that could further its efficacy.
Curcumin With Increased Bioavailability Is Important
One challenge surrounding the use of curcumin is its poor bioavailability (absorption rate), but this can be increased via a number of mechanisms.
In this study, researchers used capsules that contained curcumin and essential oil of turmeric, which increased bioavailability. Using only the most bioavailable forms of curcumin is an important step in its viability as a pain management treatment. Researchers concluded:
"Our findings suggest that curcumin three times daily has similar efficacy to but a better safety profile than diclofenac two times daily among patients with knee OA. Our study results suggest that curcumin with increased bioavailability (BCM-95) can be a good alternative treatment option in patients with knee OA who are intolerant to the side effects of NSAIDS."[viii]
To learn more about the potential positive effects curcumin can have on your health, visit the GreenMedInfo database on the subject.