3 Unique Arthritis Treatments That May Help Relieve Pain

couple doing tai chi
couple doing tai chi
What are some out-of-the-box measures your patients can take to alleviate their osteoarthritis pain?

While standard osteoarthritis (OA) treatments such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy are instrumental in easing pain and stiffness, there are out-of-the-box measures your patients can take to further alleviate their symptoms. We review 3 unique OA treatments that have some scientific evidence.

1. Drinking Milk

Not only is milk a good source of nutrients, it might slow the progression of knee OA, according to a 2014 study in Arthritis Care & Research.1

Researchers collected diet and health data on 2148 women and men with knee OA and performed annual radiographs for 4 years to measure the width between the medial femur and tibia. They found that increased consumption of milk was correlated with slower progression of knee OA in women. In men, only those who consumed the most milk (≥7 glasses per week) saw a reduced risk of OA progression.

The researchers noted that, due to the observational nature of the study – they did not randomly assign milk intake groups – they couldn’t prove causation. However, they noted controlling for most known risk factors associated with diet and OA.

2. Lavender Essential Oils

A 2016 study in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice showed that aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oils may relieve pain in patients with knee OA.2

In a single-blind study, 90 patients with knee OA were randomly assigned to 3 groups: an intervention group that received an aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oil, a placebo group that received a massage with almond oil, and a control group that did not receive a massage. Participants were evaluated at baseline, immediately following intervention, and 1 and 4 weeks after intervention. The lavender group showed the greatest improvement immediately after intervention, followed by the almond oil group. Only the lavender group showed significant improvement by 1 week; however, the effects were not sustained 4 weeks after intervention.

3. Tai Chi

A graceful form of exercise, tai chi has been shown to reduce pain in fibromyalgia. Researchers believe it may have similar effects in OA.

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In a 2013 meta-analysis in PLOS One, researchers reviewed 7 randomized clinical trials of 348 patients with OA. They found tai chi to be beneficial in improving symptoms of arthritis and physical function. However, they cautioned that larger scale, randomized controlled trials are necessary to investigate its long-term effects.3

Three years later, researchers investigated the efficacy of tai chi compared with physical therapy for knee OA. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, followed 204 patients aged ≥40 years with OA. Participants were randomly assigned to tai chi training and standard physical therapy sessions. The investigators found similar improvement in physical functioning in both groups. However, the tai chi group showed greater improvement in quality of life and reduced symptoms of depression.4


  1. Lu B, Driban JB, Duryea J, et al. Milk consumption and progression of medial tibiofemoral knee osteoarthritis: data from the osteoarthritis initiativeArthritis Care Res. 2014;66(6):802-809.
  2. Nasiri A, Mahmodi MA, Nobakht Z. Effect of aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oil on pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled clinical trialComplement Ther Clin Pract. 2016;25:75-80.
  3. Yan JH, Gu WJ, Zhang WX, Li BW, Pan L. Efficacy of tai chi on pain, stiffness and function in patients with osteoarthritis: a meta-analysisPLoS One. 2013;8(4):e61672.
  4. Wang C, Schmid CH, Iversen MD, et al. Comparative effectiveness of tai chi versus physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized trialAnn Intern Med. 2016;165(2):77-86.