Holistic Treatments and Practices for Arthritis

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Acupuncture has been shown in a large German study (305,000 people) to provide pain relief and improve function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee.  There are also many anecdotal stories from people suffering from RA and other forms of arthritis who have found acupuncture to be beneficial. It is thought to decrease pain by releasing the body’s natural chemicals that block pain. 

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Massage can increase blood flow and increase warmth to a stressed area, which may help relieve the pain associated with arthritis.  Massage treatments can result in significant improvements in pain, function and global response.  Massage can also help with the sore muscles that result from flare-ups in arthritis.

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Tai Chi is a slow-moving meditative exercise that originated in China. Many people practice Tai Chi to ease  pain and stiffness, improve balance (which can help decrease the risk of falls), and improve overall health and well-being. There have been a number of research studies showing the benefits of Tai Chi for people who have arthritis.

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Nutritional supplements, when taken correctly, may be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of arthritis. They can help provide the body with vitamins, minerals or other nutrients necessary to remove imbalances and repair damage.  In addition, some foods are natural pain relievers.

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Moderate Research
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Hydrotherapy can provide significant benefits for arthritis by providing a way to exercise while reducing stress on the affected joints.  Hydrotherapy reduces joint pain and stiffness, as while as improving the physical functioning of affected joints.  Hydrotherapy can be beneficial for a variety of types of arthritis including psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis, and has no negative side effects.

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Many patients with arthritis use magnets as a complementary treatment for pain. One scientific trial with  patients with rheumatoid arthritis with unremitting knee pain showed significant pain reduction with two different types of magnetic treatment. Magnets have been effective for treating other types of pain, but the related scientific research is very limited for arthritis.  Anecdotal reports, however, are very positive.

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Meditation and relaxation techniques can help reduce muscle tension and the stress that can accompany
arthritis. In one study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis who meditated for 45 minutes a day reduced their stress by one-third.

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Aromatherapy can help arthritis because of its ability to reduce pain and inflammation.   Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being.  The inhaled aroma from these "essential" oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. It can both relieve pain and stimulate a positive mood.

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Reflexology can help arthritis by relieving symptoms such as pain, soreness, stiffness and even depression.  People who have found reflexology to be effective for arthritis say that it allows them to reduce their use of painkillers and avoid the negative side effects of such drugs.  They also say that it helps them to sleep better and generally improves their quality of life.

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Because people with arthritis are often not aware that they are moving in ways that can cause injuries, the Alexander Technique can help them to learn to be aware of their movement and to correct harmful patterns of movement.  The Alexander Technique teaches people how to sit, stand and go about their daily activities without unnecessary tension.  While there isn't a lot of research specifically about the Alexander Technique and arthritis, is is safe and many people report benefits.

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Chiropractors often treat lower back pain and musculoskeletal conditions such as arthitris. Chiropractic treatments relieve pains in the muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissues.  Chiropractic services for people with arthritis may include helping them increase their range of motion, increasing flexibility and endurance, improving muscle strength, and (depending on their specialization) potentially providing diet and nutritional advice and supplements to reduce inflammation.

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Homeopathy may help arthritis by strengthening the body's immune system and therefore reducing the symptoms of arthritis.  One study (albeit with a fairly small sample size) showed that the benefits to patients with arthritis came from the homeopathic consultation rather than the homeopathic remedies.  Another study showed that people with rheumatoid arthritis preceived homeopathic consultations helped them cope better, either by improving their physical health, their wellbeing and/or their illness management.

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Arthritis

Summary

Arthritis is not a single disease - it is a term that covers over 100 medical conditions. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and generally affects elderly patients. Some forms of arthritis can affect people at a very early age. Arthritis affects the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints. It is the leading cause of disability among people over fifty-five years of age in industrialized countries.

Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints. Other forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and related autoimmune diseases. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infection.

The major complaint by individuals who have arthritis is joint pain. Pain is often a constant and may be localized to the joint affected. The pain from arthritis is due to inflammation that occurs around the joint, damage to the joint from disease, daily wear and tear of joint, muscle strains caused by forceful movements against stiff, painful joints and fatigue.

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the USA. More than 20 million individuals with arthritis have severe limitations in function on a daily basis. Absenteeism and frequent visits to the physician are common in individuals who have arthritis. Arthritis makes it very difficult for individuals to be physically active and many become home bound.

Arthritis can make it very difficult for the individual to remain physically active, contributing to an increased risk of obesity, high cholesterol or vulnerability to heart disease. Individuals with arthritis are also at increased risk of depression, which may be related to fear of worsening symptoms.

All arthritides potentially feature pain. Pain patterns may differ depending on the arthritides and the location. Rheumatoid arthritis is generally worse in the morning and associated with stiffness; in the early stages, patients often have no symptoms after a morning shower. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand,  tends to be worse after exercise. In the aged and children, pain might not be the main presenting feature; the aged patient simply moves less, the infantile patient refuses to use the affected limb.

Elements of the history of the disorder guide diagnosis. Important features are speed and time of onset,
pattern of joint involvement, symmetry of symptoms, early morning stiffness, tenderness, gelling or locking with inactivity, aggravating and relieving factors, and other systemic symptoms. Physical examination may confirm the diagnosis, or may indicate systemic disease. Radio-graphs are often used to follow progression or help assess severity.

There is not a cure for arthritis, but there are a variety of forms of holistic treatment that can relieve symptoms and ease the experience of pain, as well as potentially decreasing the need for pain medication.

Also known as

Ankylosing Spondylitis, Arthritic, Infectious Arthritis (Septic arthritis), Joint Inflammation, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), Osteoarthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Rheumatic, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sclerotic