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Complementary Medicine for Arthritis

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Complementary Medicine for Arthritis


A lot of people use some form of complementary medicine to treat osteoarthritis. These treatments are often used along with standard care to help relieve their arthritis symptoms.

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 about any complementary treatments you use or want to use. The doctor can tell you about the possible benefits and side effects of these treatments and whether 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.

Complementary treatments

Acupuncture and massage.

Some people find treatments like acupuncture and massage helpful for their knee arthritis. But they may not help any more than a placebo (fake treatment) does.

Mind-body practices.

Mind-body practices, such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong, can help reduce stress and relax your mind and muscles. Stress can make pain worse. So learning to control stress and relax may help with pain.

Taping of the knee.

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 on.

Braces for the knee.

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 trying them.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

TENS uses a mild electrical current to reduce pain.

Dietary supplements.

Many dietary supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, have been tried. But there is not evidence that they help much with arthritis pain or stiffness. Turmeric is a supplement that is being studied and may have some benefit.

How safe is complementary medicine?

One of the risks of using complementary medicine is that you might use this kind of treatment instead of going to your regular doctor. Complementary medicine should be in addition to treatment from your doctor. Otherwise you may miss important treatment that could help you feel better or keep your condition from getting worse.

Some natural products may be safe when you take them on their own. But they may not be safe if you have other medical problems. And they could be dangerous when combined with another medicine you take. To be safe, always check with your doctor before you use any new natural products or supplements.

Natural products also can vary widely in how strong they are. And they may contain harmful things not listed on the label. Your doctor or practitioner may be able to recommend a brand you can trust.


Current as of: July 17, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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