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Arthritis and complementary therapies

60% of arthritis sufferers are estimated to have tried some form of complementary therapy, pain management, breathing, positive thinking, massage, reflexology

Woman having reflexology
Reflexology can be relaxing and so reduce pain, according to the ARC

Lack of clinical trials means that it's difficult to assess the real effectiveness of the numerous treatments that claim to work for people with arthritis.

The Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC  )has recognised this and is funding studies into complementary therapies, such as acupuncture. Arthritis Care, meanwhile, warns that although some therapies are reputable, some make dubious claims with no evidence to back them up.

They also advise people to treat with extreme caution any practitioner who suggests that they stop conventional treatment. When choosing a therapy, supplement or diet, it is also important to remember that there are some 200 types of arthritis and what may be effective for one may not work for another.

For example, ARC points out that elimination diets undertaken under medical supervision may be effective for a minority of people with rheumatoid arthritis, but there's no evidence that they do anything for those with osteoarthritis.

Therapies for pain management

When choosing a therapy, supplement or diet, it is important to remember that there are some 200 types of arthritis and what may be effective for one may not work for another.

Progressive relaxation

Lie on your back in a quiet room and visualise every part of your body, gradually relaxing releasing tension from your toes upwards.


Take long, slow breaths, concentrating on your breathing and listening to or giving yourself relaxing messages.

Positive thinking

Try to give yourself good, encouraging messages, rather than negative ones. Acupuncture Although it doesn't work for everyone, acupuncture has a good record for pain relief, particularly in the short term, backed by clinical evidence. The ARC is currently carrying out trials looking at its effectiveness for arthritis sufferers.


This can reduce stress and anxiety as well as pain, according to the ARC.


This can be relaxing, and so reduce pain, according to the ARC.

Other therapies

Magnet therapy claims to reduce pain and speed up healing, but opinions are divided as to its effectiveness and mainstream many health experts are sceptical. There are some trials in its favour, though but they are inconclusive. Magnet jewellery should not be worn by anyone with a pacemaker.

Copper bracelets are often worn by people with arthritis, but there is no evidence that they have any effect. However, it's undeniable that some people swear by them, and this faith in itself may have a positive placebo effect.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.