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The emu oil effect: a new tool in the fight against arthritic pain and stiffness

Photo: The emu oil effect: a new tool in the fight against arthritic pain and stiffness
Arthritis is a pervasive condition that affects a staggering 3.85 million Australians. Although it is currently incurable, there are a number of alternative treatments emerging that can help ease its painful symptoms.

One such option is emu oil, a traditional remedy gaining recognition as an effective treatment to reduce the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Alongside vast anecdotal evidence, there have been a number of studies to formally explore the benefits of this treatment, including a study by Victoria University in 2004, which found that both topical application and internal supplementation of emu oil offered significant relief from osteoarthritis.

Emu oil can also be beneficial in decreasing intestinal injury in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. A 2010 study from the University of Adelaide examined the effects of emu oil on the intestine via a rat model to determine whether it could be used to treat mucositis (a serious disorder of the alimentary tract) resulting from cancer chemotherapy. The findings were promising, with emu oil shown to decrease acute inflammation and improve mucosal architecture in the intestine during recovery from chemotherapy.
How does it work?
Emu oil is powerfully anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic and penetrative. It contains essential omega fatty acids that have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels while increasing good cholesterol, reduce inflammation in body tissue and joints, improve the immune system and assist the body with many functions.

Omega 9, the major fatty acid in emu oil, is a known enhancer for transport of bioactive compounds into the skin, and thus has the ability to be absorbed quickly into the dermal layers when applied topically, easing aching joints from within.

Emu oil in action: a case study
A 65-year-old female patient presented with bilateral knee pain. The patient is an avid walker, often travelling overseas and interstate to do bush walks and pilgrimages, and has ongoing knee pain due to bilateral osteoarthritis (OA) in her knees, as well as psoriatic arthritis.

To treat her OA the patient had previously tried manual therapy, massage, swimming and strength training. She found that—aside from swimming—the results were short lived.

For her psoriasis, the patient had used a combination of Western drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressive drugs), and topical hydrocortisone creams. Although these treatments are effective, they aren’t ideal for long-term usage due to the impact on gut health, and are better left for when there are acute exacerbations.

Treatment
We performed osteopathic treatment to keep the patient’s joints mobile, muscles lengthened and relaxed, and to balance her musculoskeletal system, which can assist to enhance her immune system and result in fewer exacerbations. The patient also began attending small group Pilates at our clinic.

We provided education about the inflammatory effect of different foods as well as helpful anti-inflammatory supplements, which included a recommendation of emu oil topical cream and/or tablets. The patient commenced taking emu oil after consultation with her GP in regard to interactions with other prescribed medication.

Results
The patient reported a decrease in flare-ups of her psoriasis as well as less joint pain when walking and on waking. With gentle strengthening and mobility work, together with emu oil supplementation, the patient has significantly improved the range of motion and pain levels in her joints.

Do you or your patients suffer from arthritis? Explore these four approaches to help reduce joint pain and stiffness:

1)     See someone new
Many of us rely on our GPs to provide end-to-end healthcare, but an osteopath, physiotherapist or remedial massage therapist may also be able to offer you treatments to help reduce your pain, without relying on prescription medications.

2)    Move your body
Gentle strengthening exercise such as yoga or tai chi can help to get those bodies moving—as little as 20 minutes twice a week can have a big impact. Try it for six weeks and see how much better you feel. There are specific programs such as chair yoga that can adapt poses to your individual needs.

3)    Take pure emu oil
Pure emu oil can penetrate right through the skin into the tissues, and contains the essential fatty acids that our bodies need to soothe inflammation and swelling and lubricate the joints. I recommend Talyala Emu oil, who also offer oral capsules. Taking emu oil in capsule form can help reduce inflammation from the inside out, and the liniment can be rubbed into stiff joints to provide targeted relief.

4)    Research an anti-inflammatory diet
Make changes to cut out or reduce your intake of inflammatory foods such as sugar, refined flour, fried foods, vegetable oil and artificial sweeteners and additives.

Authored by:
Dr Sarah Smith
Registered Osteopath, Beyond (www.movebeyond.com.au)

References:
1. http://vuir.vu.edu.au/869/1/Power_et.al_2004.pdf

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