Numerous population studies have shown that the number of older Americans is on the rise.
Between baby boomers and generation X, estimates put the number of people age 65 and older at 20 percent (or one in five) of the US population by the year 2020.1,2
This increase in the older population is reflected in DCs offices, given that older patients represent more than 14 percent of their patients, with musculoskeletal pain being the most common complaint.1,2
Although this often takes the form of back pain, osteoarthritis can be another common musculoskeletal complaint among older patients.
The osteoarthritis paradox
Osteoarthritis can be one of the more difficult musculoskeletal conditions to treat because standard recommendations include exercise and strength training, both of which can be difficult if the joints are particularly stiff.1 This creates a paradox, because the most effective way to treat osteoarthritis is via movement, yet doing so may initially cause greater pain before patients begin to see results.
Obviously, expecting patients to go straight from the couch to running a 5K race is unrealistic, but clinical symptoms will only become more chronic unless patients incorporate some type of exercise or stretching regime into their daily routine.
So the question then becomes: How can DCs treat their older patients’ osteoarthritis beyond just exercise and stretching recommendations and help to break this paradox?
Some interesting research on the nutritional supplement curcumin may hold the answer for getting older patients started on the road to treating their osteoarthritis pain.3
What is curcumin?
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, a member of the ginger family. Although turmeric is best known as an ingredient in curry, it has been prized for thousands of years within Ayurvedic medicine for treating a variety of conditions, such as cancer, infections, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, recent research on curcumin has shown a benefit for treating knee osteoarthritis.
Research shows curcumin health benefits
A 2009 article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared the efficiency and safety of curcumin extract (2 g per day) to ibuprofen (800 mg per day) for treating knee osteoarthritis in a group of 107 patients over the course of six weeks.4 Fifty-two patients received the curcumin extract, and 56 received the ibuprofen.
Outcome measurements, which were taken at baseline and weeks two, four and six, were: Level walking, pain on using stairs, side effects, and knee functions during a 100-meter walk and going up and down a flight of stairs.
Both groups showed significant improvement at all measurement points. The researchers concluded that more research is needed, but it appears that curcumin may be just as effective as ibuprofen at treating knee osteoarthritis.4
A more recent article published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Science compared curcumin extract (180 mg/day) to a placebo in a group of older patients (> 40 years of age) with knee osteoarthritis over the course of eight weeks.5 Outcomes were measured every two weeks.
At the end of eight weeks, patients taking curcumin reported significantly less pain than did placebo patients, as measured on the knee pain portion of the Visual Analog Scale (VAS). Curcumin also lowered dependence on the NSAID, celecoxib, to treat osteoarthritis pain.5
There is no doubt that chiropractic can help older patients, particularly those suffering from osteoarthritis. However, it may be difficult to get patients started on the road to reduced pain if the recommended treatment will initially cause them more pain. Adding curcumin extract to a standard exercise and stretching therapeutic recommendations will make it easier for them to get back to a more active, healthy lifestyle.
- DoughertyPE, Hawk C, Weiner DK, et al. The role of chiropractic care in older adults. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. 2012;20:3.
- Weigel P, Hockenberry JM, Bentler SE, et al. A longitudinal study of chiropractic use among older adults in the United States. Chiropractic & Osteopathy. 2010;18:34.
- Beychok T. Spice up your patients’ health with turmeric. Chiropractic Economics. Accessed 2/9/2016.
- Kuptniratsaikul V, Thanakhumtorn S, Chinswangwatanakul P, et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2009;15(8):891-897.
- Nakagawa Y, Mukai S, Yamada S, et al. Short-term effects of highly-bioavailable curcumin for treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective study. Journal of Orthopaedic Science. 2014;19(6):933-939.