How to treat arthritis with complementary therapies

According to the Arthritis Research Campaign around 60% of people with arthritis turn to a complementary therapy to ease pain in some way as complementary therapies approach the body from a holistic point of view.

Holistic means looking at the whole, the mind, the body and the spirit, rather than simply addressing the physical sensation. This is different to conventional (allopathic) medicine which address the ailing body part, not the ailing person.


Therapies such as acupuncture, massage and reflexology, for example allow the body to relax. In a state of surrender, subtle emotional and mental shifts occur, which afford the body some space to find its own solution.

Complementary therapies that work with arthritis

  • Massage - the rhythmic movements associated with massage, of most kinds, have proven to be very soothing on swollen joints and knuckles. The oils used in aromatherapy massage can also work into the skin to provide pain relief on another level. Massage can reduce stress and anxiety levels, muscular tension and fatigue and is known to improve circulation.
  • Reflexology - whilst there is no direct evidence of reflexology curing arthritic pain, because the therapy works on the feet to alleviate tension or blockages through the entire body, it can be a good therapy for people who feel to weak to have anyone touch their painful parts directly.
  • Acupuncture - not a cure but a powerful pain reliever, acupuncture, is often used in physiotherapy and pain relief treatments for arthritis. Repeated treatments can bring about long-term pain relief and one study of painful, swollen arthritic knees compared acupuncture  with hydrocortisone injections: Acupuncture worked fast on the pain, while hydrocortisone brought down the swelling.
  • Magnetic therapy - the idea that certain types of magnetic field can reduce pain in muscular complaints is not new and physiotherapists use devices to produce pulsed magnetic fields. Magnetic bracelets are worn by people with arthritis as the magnetic field increases the blood's ability to carry oxygen and waste products but they should never be worn if you have a pace maker fitted. 
  • Osteopathy - using minimal force and looking at the body as working whole, not a collection of part, osteopaths diagnose and treat the body with their hands. Gently manipulating the muscles and joints, osteopaths help the body combat illness and heal itself, for example headaches, skin and digestive disorders can be treated by realigning the spine.
If you have or know someone with arthritis, and are feeling a bit creative, you can enter a creative competition here or for more information on treating arthritis Arthritis Care or The Arthritis Research Campaign