Nearly 4 out of 10 people use some form of complementary and alternative medicine to treat certain health problems, including osteoarthritis.8 Some people use
these treatments along with or, in some cases, in place of standard care to help relieve their
Some of these treatments may help you move more easily and deal with the stress and pain of arthritis. But in some cases, not much is known about how safe they are or how well they may work.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you're using a complementary or alternative therapy or if you're thinking about trying one. He or she can discuss the possible benefits and potential side effects of these treatments and whether any of these treatments may interfere with your standard care. For example, some diet supplements and herbal medicines may cause problems if you take them with another medicine.
Other treatment choices
Complementary and alternative medicines
- Dietary supplements to try to relieve pain and stiffness. Examples include:
- Acupuncture involves putting very tiny needles into
your skin at certain places on your body to relieve pain. Research
has shown that, for most people, acupuncture doesn't help arthritis symptoms.
But some people find that it helps relieve their pain for
a short time.9, 10
- Capsaicin is a cream that you
put on your skin for pain relief.
- Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy uses magnets to produce an electrical pulse that may help cartilage grow.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, uses a mild electrical
current to reduce pain.
- Mind/body control, such as
tai chi, and qi gong, can help reduce stress and relax your mind
- Magnetic bracelets. Some people believe magnetic bracelets help relieve pain. But in most cases, studies show that wearing a magnetic bracelet
to reduce pain doesn't work any better than a
Other treatments to
- Diathermy uses heat to increase blood flow for pain relief.
- Taping uses tape that sticks to the knee to help keep the kneecap in
place and relieve pain. You can do taping at home. But
first have your doctor or physical therapist show you the right way to put it
- Braces can
help shift weight off the part of your knee
that hurts. It's not clear how well
these work, but there isn't a lot of risk in
One Woman's Story:
"After I have a massage and acupuncture, I feel
like a new person. I encourage people to find out what treatments others have
tried and what things have worked for them. I'm a believer in other people's
ideas. Obviously, what works for one person may not work for another, but
unless you try it, you'll never know if it'll help."—Bev
Read more about Bev and how she learned to cope with arthritis.
What to think about
There are many
treatments for arthritis, but what works for someone else may not work for you.
You may need to try several different treatments to find what works for
Experts are testing new
medicines and methods that they hope will one day help prevent, reduce, or
repair cartilage damage. For example, they're looking at cartilage transplants
and the use of stem cells to grow new cartilage. So far, therapies to repair
cartilage have only been studied in younger people with small, well-defined
holes in their knee cartilage. This isn't a common problem for most older
adults who have arthritis of the knee.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
April 8, 2011
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