Q I have mild arthritis in one of my hip joints. What might alleviate or possibly help to cure this condition? Are there are any complementary therapies I could try?
A There are essentially two major types of arthritis - osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
OA is also known as "wear and tear" or degenerative arthritis and occurs when the protective coating in a joint (the cartilage) wears away, exposing bare bones. This makes the joint stiff, creaky and painful and, since it is caused by normal wear, it is more common with increasing age and in those with old injuries.
RA on the other hand is an inflammatory arthritis and usually occurs in younger people, especially women aged between 20 and 50. Inflammatory cells within an affected joint "eat away" at everything they touch, causing deformity and unstable joints.
Conventional treatment depends on the type of arthritis but is similar in principle. Painkillers are an essential part of treatment and include paracetamol-based drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, as well as cortisone injections and very low dose steroid tablets.
Exercise and physical therapy are vital too. It is essential to maintain a range of movement in the joints as well as keeping the surrounding muscles as strong as possible. Physiotherapy can help, as well as treatments such as acupuncture, osteopathy or massage. The natural supplement glucosamine sulphate - taken at a dose of 1500mg daily - works for many people, especially when combined with chondroitin, a substance that attracts more fluid into the joint spaces to help lubricate them. Vitamins D and E have also been shown to slow down the progression of arthritis and ease the symptoms.
Indian food after a hard run might also help. Turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon and garlic all have an anti-inflammatory action, and chillies contain capsaicin, which triggers the release of the body's own pain-relieving endorphins.
Roger Henderson, GP and marathon runner