• South Central Wisconsin
  • November 2012
Written by  Dr. Reek

The hidden danger of NSAIDS: joint damage!

Have you ever wondered why so many people are getting joint replacements? Is it lack of exercise, too much exercise, weight gain or poor nutrition? Maybe not. The real answer may be easier to understand: In countries where people don’t take NSAIDS (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) — such as Aleve, Advil and aspirin — the occurrence of joint deterioration and replacement is almost nonexistent.

Research now shows that NSAIDS triple the amount of joint deterioration — a 300% increase!1 And just two years of NSAIDS use will increase your chances of hip replacement by 50%.2

The “LINK” study in England was so conclusive about NSAIDS causing accelerated joint damage, they stopped the study early. They had to save participants unneeded joint damage, and ultimately replacement. By the third year, the study actually showed a doubling of joint replacements for participants on NSAIDS.3 There are literally hundreds of research reports on this topic.

As a major health concern for the public, why isn’t this type of information big news? Unfortunately, the same media that receives huge advertising accounts from the big pharmaceutical companies is responsible for bringing out the truth about the very drugs they promote. As a business, they weigh their options of lost revenue vs. full disclosure. “Caveat emptor”; let the buyer beware rules the day, and many suffer as a result.

Unfortunately, most doctors rely on information that the drug companies provide, including when it is “conventional medicine.” However, on closer look, many of the drugs coming into our system were not approved or designed for the prescribed conditions. They become catch-all cross-over medication powered by the profit motives of the major pharmaceutical companies. This problem often leads to another complication that is then to be remedied by another drug. This endless cycle leaves us at the mercy of “Big Pharma,” a notorious industry that weighs profit vs. risk, wrought with deception and over-reaching on drug benefits and uses.4

Medical doctors are very well educated in disease care, and their main mode of treatment for this is prescription pharmaceutical drugs. A reasonable option to consider when it comes to treating, or, better yet, preventing, long-term or degenerative conditions, is to seek the advice and treatment from holistic health care practitioners. Holistic care is the education and treatment of disorders that have not reached disease status.

A disease in most cases does not simply develop in one day. Disease comes about by a progression of dysfunction in the body’s innate abilities to correct itself, a term we know as homeostasis. Almost all textbooks written on biology start with a discussion of the life form’s innate ability to balance, heal and grow. This is where holistic care takes its cues; if the body cannot maintain balance (homeostasis) by itself, then it is in need of care. That care starts by identifying a weakness in the system and then treating the patient by strengthening the system or removing the obstacle or burden that prevents internal homeostasis.

For example: A patient comes into a doctor’s office and says he has joint pain due to an accident some time ago. After ruling out emergency concerns, like a fracture, and if the healing time has been longer than what is expected, the doctor might order an x-ray or MRI. In either case, an NSAID is the likely prescription. We now know that although this may provide some short-term pain reduction, the long-term effects negatively outweigh the benefits of short-term pain relief.

Holistic doctors look at this differently. They determine what system is the cause of the longer-term joint pain. Is the musculoskeletal system responsible (scar tissue, joint or muscle dysfunction)? If yes, the better option is physiotherapy to help the tissues recover through targeted therapy and not a broad-based drug that negatively affects the entire bodies’ cells, putting un-needed strain on healthy cells. If we find out that the endocrine system is the reason for the joint pain not abating, we look at the gland responsible for correcting this system. The adrenal gland is the endocrine gland that is responsible for repair, recovery and producing cortisol, a powerful anti-inflammatory. Often the adrenal glands are working overtime to combat the inflammation, and the protracted stress causes adrenal gland fatigue and a failure for the body to recover and maintain adequate levels of cortisol.

As a clinic supporting natural health methods, we routinely use simple blood or saliva tests that are sent out for sophisticated lab analysis. In the example above, the test ordered may center on the cortisol hormone levels in your body at different times of the day. Without adequate cortisol, the body’s joint inflammation rises and degeneration will follow. The correction would then center on the body’s adrenal function. The adrenal glands are the main response to chronic stress, actively helping with repair and recovery of every organ and cell in the body. So the natural choice would be to strengthen and support the adrenals. This can effectively be done with herbs called adaptogens and glandulars, and certainly lifestyle changes, to effectively rebuild the strength and function of these vital glands. 


Dr. Reek is with Walnut Grove Clinic, Madison, an integrated holistic practice that focuses on patient care with several treatment alternatives. For more information, call 608-231-3900 or visit the Web site at http://walnutgrovechiropractic.com.

1. Reijman M, et al. Is there an association between the use of different types of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and radiologic progression of osteoarthritis? The Rotterdam Study. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52:3137-3142.

2. Gossec L, et al. Predictive factor of total hip replacement: a prospective 2 year study of 505 patients. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. 2005;64:1028-1032. Rashad S, et al. Effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on the course of osteoarthritis. Lancet. 1989;2:519-522.

3. The scientists said, “Our study confirms beyond a reasonable doubt that the NSAID increases the rate of radiological deterioration of knees.” Huskisson HC, et al. Effects of anti-inflammatory drugs on the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee. Journal of Rheumatology. 1995;22:1941-1946.

4. U.S. GAO - New Drug Approval: FDA Needs to Enhance Its Oversight of Drugs Approved on the Basis of Surrogate Endpoints.

5. Martin PA, Crump MH (2003). “The adrenal gland”. In Dooley MP, Pineda MH. McDonald’s veterinary endocrinology and reproduction (5th ed.). Ames, Iowa.

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