What are the main differences between complementary and alternative medicine and conventional medicine?
Conventional medicine is sometimes criticised for focusing on the disease rather than the person as a whole. Complementary and alternative medicine often take a more holistic approach and aim to enable the body to heal itself. Read more
Why do people use complementary and alternative medicine?
People often try complementary and alternative medicines because conventional medicines haven't worked or because they have concerns about side-effects of medication. Read more
Does complementary and alternative medicine really work?
Because there are many types of complementary and alternative medicine, it’s impossible to generalise about whether they work or not. Effectiveness might be judged by whether you feel better but it also may relate to measurable improvement in your condition or general well-being. Read more
Are complementary and alternative medicines safe?
Complementary and alternative medicines are generally considered fairly safe, though some may have side-effects or may interact with other medicines. Read more
Can I get complementary and alternative therapies on the NHS?
Most complementary and alternative medicines are not available on the NHS, but physical therapies such as acupuncture sometimes are. Read more
Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles at particular points in your skin. It's thought to relieve pain by diverting or altering painful sensations sent to your brain. Read more
The Alexander technique is about increasing awareness of body posture and movement to ease muscle tension and improve movement. Read more
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils, which can be inhaled, massaged into the skin or used in the bath. Read more
Many people wear copper bracelets and they're safe to use, although there's no scientific evidence that they help arthritis. Read more
Diet and nutritional supplements
A healthy balanced diet should help to minimise the impact of arthritis, but there are a few supplements which may be helpful in certain situations.
Healing techniques take many different forms and often have close links with religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs. Read more
Herbal medicine involves using plants or plant extracts to treat disease. Herbal medicines often used for arthritis include devil's claw, Boswelia and rosehip. Read more
Homeopathy is based on the idea of treating like with like (though in a very diluted form). So painful swelling of a joint might be treated with bee-sting venom which would normally cause painful swelling. Read more
It's been suggested that magnets can be helpful for pain relief. One of the most popular way of using them is to wear them in a bracelet but there are other options. Read more
Manipulative therapies: chiropractic, osteopathy and manual medicine
Manipulative therapies include chiropractic and osteopathy and they're used mainly for back, neck and joint problems including sports or repetitive strain injuries. Read more
Massage can reduce anxiety and stress, relieve muscle tension and fatigue, and improve circulation - which can all contribute to reduced pain. Read more
Meditation, t'ai chi and yoga
Meditative therapies include yoga, t'ai chi and qigong. They focus on posture and breathing exercises and can ease stress and aid relaxation. Read more
Relaxation, hypnosis and cognitive therapies
Psychological therapies that focus on relaxation and patterns of thinking can help with painful conditions by reducing muscle tension and helping to overcome fears that movement and activity will increase pain. Read more
Wax bath therapy
Wax bath therapy is used mainly to relieve pain and stiffness in the hands. It improves mobility by warming the connective tissues. Read more
Are these therapies right for me?
It’s hard to say whether complementary or alternative therapies would work for you, as everyone responds differently to the treatments. However, there are some key points to consider if you’re thinking of using these therapies. Read more
Complementary and alternative therapists
It's important to go to a therapist who is legally registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council or to one who is insured and complies with an agreed code of ethics. Read more
Research and new developments
It can be hard to find scientific evidence for some complementary medicines and therapies, but Arthritis Research UK have produced two detailed and authoritative reports summarising the available evidence. Read more