Rheumatoid Arthritis Alternative Treatment
Rheumatoid arthritis alternative treatmentBy Dr.Ann Parfitt-Rogers
When it comes to Rheumatoid Arthritis Alternative Treatment, there is a wide variety of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies available. A survey of Americans showed that 40% used CAM for chronic conditions in 1997 and made almost twice as many visits to their CAM practitioner as their family doctor.
Benefits of alternative treatment:
Patients often believe that complementary medicines have fewer or no side effects, although this may not necessarily be the case. It is also something they can more easily control, and may make a difference where conventional medication hasn’t worked.
In one study, around 65% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions had tried CAM at some stage. Another reported the figure as high as 80% or greater.
In Australia, patients who were receiving a pension and men were the least likely to use CAM. Although they did not believe it to be as helpful as conventional therapy, they spent at least the same amount of money if not more on CAM therapies.
In America, factors related to CAM use included use of a podiatrist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist or orthotist, visits by the physician for arthritis-related complaints, worse self-rated health, abstinence from alcohol and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
This is one of the most common types of CAM used for RA. One study looked at the role of diet in controlling rheumatoid arthritis. Certain types of fatty acids called n-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, were found to help symptoms by reducing inflammation. They also lower the risk of heart attack and angina, which is increased in RA.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Alternative Treatment Herbal treatment
A common type of herbal treatment is Chinese medicine. This uses Four Diagnostic Methods, including patient questionnaires and examination of the tongue and radial pulse in the wrist. Treatments vary widely between practitioners.
It is possible that tongue colour may identify a subset of patients who could benefit from herbal treatment. In a study comparing herbal medicine with conventional medical therapy, patients with a pale tongue coating experienced greater benefit than those with pink or purple coatings. Overall, 60% of the herbal patients and 84% of the conventional medical patients improved by 20%.
Balneotherapy, also known as spa therapy or mineral baths, are used to ease joint pains and stiffness in RA. In a Cochrane Review (which looks at all the evidence in a particular area), it was found to be similar in effectiveness to mudpacks, exercises and relaxation therapy. Overall, the evidence is fairly weak and the trials are not scientifically rigorous, although one study found some benefit. One type of balneotherapy (such as radon, tap water or Dead Sea baths) has not been proven to be more effective than another.
Acupuncture can be used to help pain in joints such as the knee and shoulder. It involves inserting small needles into particular points around the body to override pain signals and allow the flow of qi (pronounced chee) through the body. The evidence for acupuncture is not strong but some people find it helpful.
Electrical stimulation can be used to improve strength and function in clients with RA. It involves placing electrodes onto the skin to stimulate individual muscle groups and promote blood supply. For instance, it can significantly improve muscle strength in the hands. However, the methods of the studies showing this were not particularly high quality, so the conclusions are doubtful.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art. It combines deep breathing exercises with gentle movement. Studies have found it can improve range of movement and agility in people with RA, and also improves posture and balance in the general population. It does not seem to affect daily activity levels, joint tenderness or swelling. Mood scores and quality of life rated by patients with RA seemed to improve in some studies but not in others, so the evidence for this is inconclusive. It is not certain whether it affects pain levels.
Chiropractic therapy is a form of alternative therapy which works mainly on the back area to correct subluxations, or minor dislocations, of the spine. It uses techniques such as massage and manipulation to do this. Other exercises include wobble boards and repetitive traction. Some patients have found this beneficial.
Faith healing is a treatment which arouses much debate. Some believe in it, others don’t. Practices include praying, exorcism, chanting, amulets and the laying-on of hands. Studies of prayer and other methods tend to show an improvement in healing and pain scores in those engaging in a faith, and you can find stories on the Internet of people who have been healed of RA, such as http://scoanlondon.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/rheumatoid-arthritis-healed-god-healed-me/.
Hypnosis and meditation
Hypnosis is another fairly popular method. Hypnotherapy can regulate the flow of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Finally, Barbara Allen, who has rheumatoid arthritis, talks about the benefits of meditation in rheumatoid arthritis alternative treatment here:
1. Rao J, et al. Use of Complementary Therapies for Arthritis among Patients of Rheumatologists. Ann Intern Med. 1999;131(6):409-416.
2. Stamp L, et al. Diet and rheumatoid arthritis: A review of the literature. 2005;35(2):77-94.
3. Buchbinder R, et al. Non-prescription complementary treatments used by rheumatoid arthritis patients attending a community-based rheumatology practice. Internal Medicine Journal. 2002 May;32(6):208–214.
4. Zhang G, et al. Variability in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Diagnoses and Herbal Prescriptions Provided by Three TCM Practitioners for 40 Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. June 2005; 11(3): 415-421.
5. Association between tongue appearance in Traditional Chinese Medicine and effective response in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Jang M, et al. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2011 Jun;19(3):115-121.
6. Casimiro L. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The Cochrane Library. 21 JAN 2009.