Paracetamol is a readily available inexpensive medication which is popular for arthritic pain, with a sustained release version especially available for osteoarthritis. One of the attractions of paracetamol is that it does not have the gut irritating effects of the NSAID anti-inflammatory drugs, neither is it associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems or kidney damage. Unfortunately a recent study found that it is essentially in-effective for back pain, and a new study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that it also a poor choice for knee osteo-arthritis. Of course studies do not look at the effects on a given individual, but examines the statistical effect on a group of people so if paracetamol is providing the desired effect for an individual then of course they should keep using it. NSAID anti-inflammatories were generally found to be more effective for knee osteoarthritis but they are a poor choice for long term use.
There are more sustainable and gentler natural options available. Knee osteoarthritis responds well to a course of acupuncture. The troublesome stiffness and night-time pain associated with a Baker’s cyst responds remarkably well in most cases. Remaining cartilage can be supported with both acupuncture and supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin. Success has also been had in clinic using a new product which combines glucosamine with gelatin. Fish oil is often useful for the symptom of stiffness, but for acute inflammation herbal medicines that incorporate high doses of turmeric can be effective. In practice the doses of turmeric found in over the counter products are not often sufficient to give an adequate result, so we use a proprietary practitioner only product which is made up of a high dose turmeric extract in combination with other anti-inflammatory herbs such as boswellia, ginger, and cayenne.