Arthritis: CAM Therapies for Specific
- Arthritis can be the result of common lifestyle
risks such as smoking,
overeating, or being too sedentary; some forms of arthritis can be prevented,
arrested, or even reversed when patients stop making these lifestyle mistakes.
- Exercise and movement, which are used in many MindBody
therapies, decrease the harmful effects of stress, and help prevent some of the
diseases of aging (including arthritis). Some Eastern exercise disciplines,
such as yoga and tai chi, address body and mind as an integral system.
- Cognitive behavioral interventions (education, training in coping skills
and motivation techniques, and behavioral rehearsal) are very effective with
patients suffering from chronic diseases such as arthritis, and are a viable
addition to conventional treatment for arthritis.
- Arthritis patients who participated in a
lifestyle-based pain management program experienced an average 20 percent decline in pain, and a 40
percent reduction in doctor visits.
- Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese exercise involving
physical movements and breathing exercises, has been studied in China for its
impact on arthritis.
- Music therapy (listening to and making music) has been
found to raise the pain threshold of rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Hospitals and HMOs are increasingly
components in their managed care programs, and are successfully treating
arthritis with this approach.
- Injections of the antioxidant enzyme SOD are used in Europe to treat
musculoskeletal inflammation and osteoarthritis. Bovine SOD, injected into the
joint, has been found beneficial in treating osteoarthritis of the knee.
However, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has been disappointing.
- Testosterone, a hormone, has been studied as a
treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, with equivocal results. Improvement was
noted in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms; however, there was no significant
effect on the disease.
- Chinese herbal medicine is the most dominant traditional Chinese
medicine (TCM) intervention worldwide, and several American companies are now
making Chinese herbal formulas that can have positive impacts on diseases such
- One of the most frequently used herbs in
Japanese herbal medicine, Bupleurum, has been used in Japan for treating arthritis.
- An extract of TCM anti-arthritis herb
administered to seventy patients with rheumatoid arthritis of at least six
months' duration, none of whom had responded to standard treatment. Herb T-2
produced positive results that were better than the results produced by a
standard arthritis drug.
- In an arthritis study, 50 percent of
osteoarthritis patients using acupuncture became much improved or symptom-free, compared to 31
percent of patients taking medication. In another arthritis study, 25 percent
of patients scheduled for knee surgery were able to avoid surgery after a
course of acupuncture.
Caution: Among the most
serious, occasional side effects of acupuncture are mild, transitory
depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
- Naturopathic medicine in the form of nutritional supplements,
botanicals, and physical medicine (electromagnetic field stimulation) has been
found to have significant effects in the treatment of arthritis.
- Glucosamine is currently being investigated, in a
large NCCAM- funded multicenter RCT, as an effective nutritional supplement.
Considerable animal research indicates that glucosamine alone may arrest
arthritic deterioration. There is less evidence supporting the addition of the
supplements chondroitin or bromelain in conjunction with the glucosamine.
- Current research is addressing the
effects of homeopathic treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Homeopathy, which is considered a complete medical
system and is capable of addressing a wide array of health problems, has successfully
- Homeopathy patients with rheumatoid arthritis have
shown a statistically significant improvement in pain, stiffness, and grip
strength, compared to a placebo.
- In homeopathy, Rhus tox is a commonly prescribed remedy for
rheumatoid arthritis, but it is less commonly prescribed for osteoarthritis.
- Ayurveda is India's traditional system of natural
medicine. In Vedic philosophy there are three essential, overriding qualities
(or doshas) that are
present in all things - vata, pitta,
and kapha). Vata people most commonly have arthritis.
- Ayurvedic herbs are used both internally and externally
to treat arthritis and muscle disorders.
- Ten medical conditions (including
arthritis) were studied for effects of multiple Maharishi Ayur-Ved
a nutritional program, individualized herbal preparations, and lifestyle
guidelines. Seventy-nine percent of the patients showed improvement, 14 percent
showed no change, and 7 percent became worse. All ten categories of medical
condition showed significant improvement.
- An Ayurvedic preparation consisting of the herbs Withania
longa, and a zinc
complex produced a significant reduction in pain in a study of arthritis.
- More than three-quarters of arthritis
patients who were treated with powdered ginger achieved relief from pain and swelling,
and all of the patients with muscular discomfort had pain relief. None of the
patients reported adverse effects. Ginger is both an anti-inflammatory and an
anti-coagulant and may induce excess bleeding.
- Patients receiving a special extract of guggul (the crude gum of the herb Boswellia
serrata), known as H-15,
were found to have reduced swelling and pain, compared with those who received
placebo. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis were reduced in 50 to 60 percent of
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BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: WHAT WORKS? WHAT DOES NOT? by Dr. Kenneth R.
Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier,
Reprinted by permission of Simon &
Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.
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