What About Homeopathy and Mind-Body Therapies?

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a whole medical system that was developed in Germany and brought to the United States in the 19th century. Homeopathy involves giving very small doses of substances called remedies that would produce the same or similar symptoms of illness in healthy people when given in larger doses. This approach is called "like cures like." The remedies are diluted very highly, often to a point where not one molecule of the original substance remains.
 
Effectiveness and safety information:
 
  • Little rigorous research has been done on homeopathy for rheumatoid arthritis. The results have been mixed. It appears from some studies that homeopathy might be more effective than a placebo for rheumatic diseases and syndromes (including rheumatoid arthritis), but this evidence is not strong. Larger, better-designed studies are needed to resolve this question.

 

  • Homeopathic remedies are considered safe and unlikely to cause severe side effects. The FDA has learned of a few reports of illness associated with the use of these remedies, but determined that the remedies were not likely to be the cause. Homeopathic remedies are not known to interfere with conventional drugs.
     

Selected Mind-Body Techniques

Mind-body techniques draw upon the interactions that exist in health and disease between the mind, the emotions, the body as a whole, and various body systems (such as the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems). Some mind-body techniques are part of ancient healing traditions, while others have emerged in recent times. Examples of mind-body techniques include meditation, tai chi, relaxation techniques, and spirituality for health purposes.
 
Effectiveness and safety information:
 
  • Mind-body therapies have been applied to, and studied for, various types of pain. Results from clinical trials indicate that mind-body therapies may be effective additions to the treatment and management of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and its pain.

 

  • One analysis of clinical trials on mind-body therapies for rheumatoid arthritis has been published. The authors of this analysis, who evaluated 25 trials and published their findings in 2002, also concluded that mind-body approaches may be effective additions to rheumatoid arthritis treatment. They noted that mind-body practices led to significant improvements in rheumatoid arthritis pain, disability, overall psychological state (psychological status), coping, and belief in one's own ability to handle situations (self-efficacy). Mind-body therapies appeared to be more helpful for people who had rheumatoid arthritis for a shorter period of time than for those who had it for a longer period.

 

  • There are still questions about mind-body therapies and rheumatoid arthritis that need to be answered by research, such as which among these therapies are most effective and, if they work, how they work.
     
  • Spirituality may help people with rheumatoid arthritis in their quality of life, coping, and how they feel about their health. The research so far has been limited, however. A 2003 study at Johns Hopkins University of people with moderate rheumatoid arthritis found that those who had "spiritual transcendence" had more happiness, joy, and positive perceptions of their own health. This was regardless of how severe their rheumatoid arthritis was or how well they could function.
     
  • There have been some small studies on tai chi for rheumatoid arthritis. Tai chi is a practice from traditional Chinese medicine that uses specific postures along with gentle, slow movements; meditation; and coordinated breathing. These studies on tai chi and rheumatoid arthritis have had conflicting results; some found improvement in daily functioning and certain symptoms, while others did not. A clinical trial found that tai chi improved physical functioning and immunity in healthy older adults. Other research has also supported benefit from tai chi to older people on such outcomes as balance, postural stability, frailty, and prevention of falls. Tai chi is a relatively safe practice. It is done slowly and at low impact to the body.
     
  • In mind-body therapies, there are relatively few, if any, physical and emotional risks. A helpful aspect of most mind-body therapies is that they can be taught to users and practiced by them at times and places of their choice.
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