Question: Is it true that some alternative therapies that might work for osteoarthritis do not work for rheumatoid arthritis?
Answer: Yes. Alternative therapies for osteoarthritis do actually differ from rheumatoid arthritis and that's based much on the path of physiology of these different arthritic conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of inflammation. Your blood becomes inflamed which then goes to the joints.
Oftentimes in osteoarthritis, the problem is more of a structural problem involving the cartilage or kind of localized to the joints causing pain. And so when we use alternative therapies -- or I actually prefer the term complimentary medications -- for these disorders, some are aimed at treating inflammation in blood, and some are really treated at specifically for the joints.
For example, glucosamine and chondroitin, sulfate as well as MSM, really you're trying to restore the natural cartilage matrix in a person's joints and are much more effective in osteoarthritis, although studies have been controversial in this regard. Other medicines such as fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids tend to have their benefit with inflammation and so we use them more in lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and such.
So we really do try to target our complimentary medications that we use a patient depending on their disease state, remembering that there are over 150 different causes of arthritis. So when a patient has joint pains it's not just, oh wait rheumatoid arthritis, but it could be a variety of other causes as well.