News March 2004 Issue

In the News: 03/04

‘Chicken Shots’: Back To The Coop
New research has shown a popular osteoarthritis treatment—hyaluronic acid injections—to be ineffective. The investigation, conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine, pooled data from 22 studies comparing hyaluronic acid injections (referred to as “chicken shots” because hyaluronic acid is extracted from chicken combs) and a salt-water-based placebo. Researchers found little difference in results between the two groups.

Hyaluronic acid injections were approved in 1997 as an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis patients who want to delay knee replacement surgery or who are at risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers when taking anti-inflammatory medications. Two types of injections are approved for use in the U.S.: Synvisc is given in a series of three injections, and Hyalgan is administered as a series of five injections. Neither treatment is cheap; per-treatment costs range $300-$500 for the injections alone.

Said Dr. Grace Lo, who headed the study, “That’s pretty expensive for something that is only marginally effective, if it works at all.”

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Dietary Supplements Improving
The overall quality of joint-friendly dietary supplements, according to a recent report by ConsumerLab.com, is on the rise. The independent evaluator of nutritional supplements tested 43 glucosamine/chondroitin products and found only two that contained less than the labeled amount of active ingredients—Doctor’s Best Glucosamine/Chondroitin/ MSM Dietary Supplement contained less than 85 percent of the chondroitin listed on its label, and Glucoflex 24 Patented 24-Hour Release Glucosamine/Chondroitin contained only 18 percent of the chondroitin it listed. Also tested were eight SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) products. Only one product—Great Earth Vitamin Stores YouthQuest SAMe Plex—failed; it contained only 30 percent of the SAMe it claimed.

The glucosamine/chondroitin evaluations, in particular, showed a marked improvement over ConsumerLab.com tests reported on by Arthritis Advisor in December 2002, when nearly a third of 25 products tested were found not to contain all the labeled ingredients. Although these supplements have been shown to have some success in relieving arthritis pain, most physicians still recommend low-impact exercise and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as the arthritis sufferer’s first line of defense.

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Amadeus For The Ailing
We’ve heard about the soothing effects classical music can have on newborns and infants—but as a pain reliever for arthritis? According to a study involving 66 elderly osteoarthritis patients residing in Florida, listening to light classical music—specifically, Mozart—can significantly help reduce pain.

The patients were divided evenly into two groups—experimental and controlled. All were over the age of 65 with physician-diagnosed osteoarthritis at a pain level of at least level 3 on a 1-10 scale on at least 15 days of the month. The experimental group listened to 20 minutes of selections from Mozart each day for 14 days. In the control group, patients sat quietly, and did not listen to music, for 20 minutes each day. During days 1, 7, and 14, pain levels, measured via a pain descriptor scale, continually decreased in the experimental group.

The Mozart selections ranged from 60 to 72 beats per minute. Professor Ruth McCaffrey of the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing, who headed the study, said, “Literature indicates that music between 60 and 80 beats per minute induces relaxation and reduced anxiety . . . and light classical was chosen as a type that most elders enjoy.” McCaffrey further noted, “I suspect some of the music’s effect came through entrainment—a term used to indicate the mind’s ability to embrace music and allow it to reduce pain. . . . It suggests that music might take the person away from the pain to a place of peaceful and relaxing sensations.