‘Complementary therapies’ are any treatments or therapies that are not part of the conventional treatment (such as medicines or surgery) of a disease. Examples of complementary therapies include acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, vitamin and mineral supplements and herbal medicines.
The main criticism of complementary therapies is that there is often little scientific proof that they work. In many cases, little or no research has been done. In other cases, only poor quality studies have been done so the results may be inaccurate or exaggerated.
Before trying a complementary therapy, make sure you understand whether the benefits have been clearly proven so that you are not misled or given false hope. The current reliable evidence from studies of complementary therapies for arthritis is summarised below.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
|• Fish oils|
|• Gamma linoleic acid (found in evening primrose oil, borage/starflower seed oil and blackcurrant seed oil)|
• Krill oils
*Promising results from multiple studies but still some doubts about effectiveness
# Positive result from a single study but there are important doubts about whether it works
(Note: there are many other treatments available however these have not been demonstrated to be safe and/or effective.)
Because many complementary therapies have not been thoroughly tested, it is not known if they are safe or unsafe. Complementary medicines need to be treated with the same care and respect as other medicines. Many complementary medicines can cause side effects and may interact with other medicines (eg. prescription medicines). This can cause serious health problems or make other medicines less effective. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using any complementary therapy.
Before you start using a complementary therapy
Here are a few steps to protect yourself:
Be on the lookout for the following warning signs when considering a new treatment:
You may feel concerned that your doctor or other members of your healthcare team will disapprove of complementary therapies. However, it is very important to keep your healthcare team informed, even if they do not approve. Your healthcare team, particularly your rheumatologist, GP and pharmacist, can’t give you the best professional advice without knowing all the treatments you are using. This includes vitamin supplements, herbal medicines and other therapies.
CONTACT YOUR LOCAL ARTHRITIS OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND SUPPORT SERVICES.