Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies are treatments that are used in addition to conventional therapies such as medication. These treatments do not replace conventional therapy, but there’s hope that they could improve well-being and ability to function.

Thus far, there is limited evidence that any type of complementary therapy provides a benefit,1 but research in this area is ongoing. Treatments that have shown promise and that warrant additional research include mind-body therapies and certain dietary supplements.1  Mind-body therapy may provide both physical and psychological benefits by reducing pain, improving physical function, and improving ability to cope. Examples of mind-body therapy are relaxation, meditation, tai chi, imagery, and biofeedback. Acupuncture may also help to manage pain, but there is limited information about its role specifically.

Several types of dietary supplements are also being evaluated. Fish oil supplements, for example, provide omega-3 fatty acids that may be useful at relieving joint tenderness and morning stiffness. Benefits of dietary supplements remain uncertain, and before taking any dietary supplement you should discuss it with your doctor. Some supplements may not be safe to use in combination with other medications or in people with certain health conditions.

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1 National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Get the facts: rheumatoid arthritis and CAM. Last updated October 2010.