Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis With Alternative Medicine

There are some important things to consider if you're thinking of using alternative medicine to treat rheumatoid arthritis. For example, people with this condition must be diagnosed by a professional who has substantial conventional medical training and the condition followed by a rheumatologist. Also, find out whether any high-quality scientific research has been done on the alternative medicines.

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis With Alternative Medicine: An Overview

Complementary and alternative medicine represent a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered part of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine is medicine as practiced by holders of MD (medical doctor) or DO (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as nurses, physical therapists, and dietitians. Some practitioners of conventional medicine are also practitioners of alternative medicine.

Important Points to Keep in Mind

Here are some key points to consider if you are thinking of using alternative medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis:
  • It is very important for people with rheumatoid arthritis to ensure that their condition is diagnosed by a professional with substantial conventional medical training and that their condition is being followed by a rheumatologist (a physician who specializes in rheumatic diseases). This is important to minimize damage to the joints and bones, as well as disability.
  • There are many proven conventional treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. It is important not to replace them with an alternative medicine that is unproven.
  • Many alternative medicines used to treat rheumatoid arthritis are heavily advertised and make attractive claims, often based on personal stories (testimonials). However, it is important to find out whether any high-quality scientific research has been done on an alternative medicine.
  • No alternative medicine has been proven to be of benefit to rheumatoid arthritis. Some -- such as thunder god vine (which is not currently available in a safe American-made product), gamma-linolenic acid, fish oil, and mind-body therapies -- have shown some possibility of benefit for people with rheumatoid arthritis, but further studies are needed determine this for sure.
  • It is important to tell your healthcare provider(s) about any alternative medicines you are using or considering. This is both for your safety and to ensure a comprehensive treatment plan.
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