Treat Arthritis Pain Using Alternative Medicine?

Dr. Lisse answers the question: 'Rheumatoid Arthritis Alternative Meds?'

ByABC News
November 14, 2008, 12:33 PM

— -- Question: Are There Any Effective Ways To Treat Pain Associated With Rheumatoid Arthritis Using Alternative Medicine?

Answer: There have been a number of alternative medications that have been used for their anti-inflammatory properties. Probably the ones that are most frequently talked about are turmeric, ginger, and botswellia. These have all been used at one time or another. There's also fish oils that are used on occasion.

Most of these have relatively modest effects and shouldn't be used as a substitute for the therapy that you can get from your physician. They may be helpful as what we call adjuncts, meaning that they are used with those medications, although the number of pills can become daunting if patients take too many of these.

Certainly, acupuncture has been used for pain relief; it's been studied more with low back pain and osteoarthritis than it has been with rheumatoid arthritis, but as long as this is relatively safe, and acupuncture usually is, most physicians probably will not have a problem with it.

We often use physical therapy, heat, massage, some local treatments and topical treatments could be used -- capsaicin, or pepper cream, can be used on occasion, although you have to be careful because it may burn when you first put it on.

Many of these things are useful to help you with pain. What is important to note though, is that in patients who have destruction and evidence of damage in their joints, these will not stop the damage and so you need to be careful to make a distinction between symptomatic treatments for pain relief and slowing down the damage of the disease.

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