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Complementary or alternative therapies for osteoarthritis


Complementary or alternative therapies for osteoarthritis are commonly used and therefore it is important that health-care providers and patients are aware of the evidence for or against these approaches. In this article, the best available evidence is reviewed. The results suggest that, for several treatments, the risk–benefit profile is encouraging: acupuncture, several herbal medicines and capsaicin cream. For other therapies the evidence is weak or contradictory: homeopathy, magnet therapy, tai chi, leech therapy, music therapy, yoga, imagery and therapeutic touch. Many other treatments have not been scientifically tested. It is concluded that some complementary or alternative therapies have generated sufficiently promising results to warrant further investigation in large-scale, definitive, randomized clinical trials.

Key Points

  • Complementary or alternative medicine is commonly used by patients with osteoarthritis

  • The risk–benefit profile is encouraging for acupuncture, several herbal remedies and capsaicin cream

  • For other treatments the evidence is weak or contradictory: homeopathy, magnet therapy, tai chi, leech therapy, music therapy, imagery and therapeutic touch

  • Most complementary or alternative medicine interventions recommended for osteoarthritis have not been studied in clinical trials

  • Some complementary or alternative medicines seem to merit further study

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Correspondence to Edzard Ernst.

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The author declares no competing financial interests.

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Ernst, E. Complementary or alternative therapies for osteoarthritis. Nat Rev Rheumatol 2, 74–80 (2006).

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