Are these therapies right for me?
It’s hard to say for sure whether complementary and alternative therapies would work for you, as everyone responds differently to the treatments. Many of these therapies require your active participation and a certain amount of belief in the possible outcome. This is the placebo effect – the psychological hope and belief that a treatment will help.
A lot of scientific research is aimed at finding out whether changes in patients’ conditions are due to natural variations in the condition, or due to what are called ‘non-specific effects’ such as a belief that the treatment will work. However, if you find that complementary therapies work for you then this may be a more importanr consideration than how or why the therapy works.
There are some key points to consider if you’re thinking about using complementary and alternative medicine.
- What am I hoping to achieve? Pain relief? More energy? Better sleep? Reduction in medication?
- Who is the therapist? Are they qualified, registered and insured?
- Am I happy with the therapy? It’s not much use going to an acupuncturist if you have a needle phobia! Or seeing a therapist who’s going to advise drastic lifestyle changes that you won’t be able to stick to.
- Are there any risks? Are they safe?
- What are the financial costs?
- Is there any evidence for their effectiveness?
What do I need to do?
- Be realistic – There are no miracle cures for arthritis (be suspicious of anyone, or any website, promising a miracle cure).
- Tell your doctor – Many people assume that their doctors will disapprove, but in fact most doctors will be interested to find out what has helped you. Some therapies, especially herbs, can interfere with prescription medicines or cause abnormal blood tests. It’s important that you discuss their use with your doctor before starting treatment.
- Keep taking your prescribed medication, unless advised otherwise by your doctor – If you’re hoping to reduce your prescribed medication, don’t do so suddenly. The general rule is to continue the prescribed medicine until you start to improve, then gradually reduce it. Some medications are long-acting, so you may not notice the effects of reducing it immediately. This is another reason to talk to your doctor.