Do alternative therapies work to treat arthritis?

Some people with arthritis claim that therapies like acupuncture, yoga or hydrotherapy help improve their symptoms.


It goes without saying that nothing can replace the treatment set by your doctor. Even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s working and you want to throw in the towel, it’s important to be patient and trust your doctors, because they know better than anyone what we really need.

That said, it’s always good to be informed about the options available to you, so let’s look at some options which could, with the approval of your doctor and in combination with your regular treatment, help to alleviate symptoms of the illness like pain and inflammation. 

Acupuncture, an ancient technique

The technique of traditional acupuncture has been handed down from generation to generation, over millions of years, and has now been named part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO. You may know that it consists of the insertion of small, thin needles in specific points of the body, and that it’s used to treat many diseases. Well, we want to tell you a bit more. In the case of arthritis, many people have tried it and have seen the results for themselves. This is because acupuncture causes the production of endorphins which, in turn, have an effect on the receptors which reduce our sensitivity to pain. The location and the length of the needles depends on a precise diagnostic process, which should be done carefully and should also be highly individualized.

We don’t want to mislead you, so we have to admit – there are currently no clinical studies that clearly prove the impact of acupuncture on arthritis. Nevertheless, it seems that more and more people with arthritis are trying it for themselves and find that their symptoms are relieved. 

Yoga, wisdom from India

Not only does it manage to reduce the pains caused by arthritis, but also the associated inflammation. And it’s not just the people who’ve tried it who say so: it’s also been proven by a study carried out by a group of researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, after working with a group of thirty adults with rheumatoid arthritis and a sedentary lifestyle. Two groups were set up – one practiced yoga and the other acted as a control group. The yoga group practiced deep breathing and relaxation exercises, as well as meditation techniques. After eight weeks, this group said that their pain had reduced significantly. The inflammation in their joints had also reduced, in contrast to the control group, who still had the same symptoms as on day one. 

Hot and cold treatment, a home remedy

Here’s something that’s simple and easy to do, but seems to work well in the treatment of certain types of arthritis. Some people respond better to heat, others to cold. Whichever applies to you, it seems that that the temporary application of heat or cold can reduce the stiffness and pain caused by arthritis. While heat is useful to fight against stiffness, cold helps to reduce swelling and alleviates muscle spasms. If you’re wondering how you can try it out, well, it couldn’t be easier! To apply heat, you can have a warm bath, apply hot compresses, use a hot water bottle or even a paraffin bath, with melted wax and mineral oil. For cold, a simple ice pack will do.

Some people have realized that what makes them feel better is the combination of heat and cold. In that case, you should apply heat, then cold, and then heat again. And be careful! Don’t use any of these methods for more than fifteen minutes. If you want to try this technique, ask your doctor which is the best for you. 

Biofeedback, science fiction made real

 Everyone knows that we’re not always aware of certain physiological characteristics of our own bodies. For example, we can’t sense what brain waves we’re emitting or what our blood pressure is. Although in principle these functions are automatically carried out automatically by the nervous system, there are ways to exert influence over some of them. How? Through biofeedback, for example. In a typical session of this technique, the person rests comfortably on a chair while sensors on the skin send information to a machine. In this way, you can learn about your biological functions through visual and aural stimuli. Biofeedback works like a mirror which lets you see and hear your body’s activity to modify unhealthy behaviors.

Researchers believe that this therapy can help people with arthritis to relax the muscles around a painful joint. Placebo or reality? Whatever the case may be, what seems to be true is that the results are tangible. Will you give it a try? 

Hydrotherapy, streams of vitality

The therapeutic action of hydrotherapy is a result of its heating and mechanical effects. This technique takes advantage of the body’s reaction to hot and cold stimuli, the prolonged application of heat and the pressure exerted by water. Sensations produced in our skin by water have effects in the rest of the body: they stimulate the immune system, slow the production of stress hormones to calm the nervous system, stimulate digestion and circulation, and alleviate pains caused by several diseases - including arthritis.

Arthritis, Wellbeing, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Non-pharmacological treatments, Public Healthcare, Private Healthcare

Author: Purificación Salgado, Journalist

Last Modification: May 12, 2017

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