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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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How Is Osteoarthritis Treated? continued...

Complementary and alternative therapies

When conventional medical treatment doesn’t provide sufficient pain relief, people are more likely to try complementary and alternative therapies. The following are some alternative therapies used to treat osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture: Some people have found pain relief using acupuncture, a practice in which fine needles are inserted by a licensed acupuncture therapist at specific points on the skin. Preliminary research shows that acupuncture may be a useful component in an osteoarthritis treatment plan for some patients. Scientists think the needles stimulate the release of natural, pain-relieving chemicals produced by the nervous system.

Folk remedies: These include wearing copper bracelets, drinking herbal teas, taking mud baths, and rubbing WD-40 on joints to “lubricate” them. While these practices may or may not be harmful, no scientific research to date shows that they are helpful in treating osteoarthritis. They can also be expensive, and using them may cause people to delay or even abandon useful medical treatment.

Nutritional supplements: Nutrients such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been reported to improve the symptoms of people with osteoarthritis, as have certain vitamins. Additional studies have been carried out to further evaluate these claims. (See Current Research)

Who Treats Osteoarthritis?

Treating arthritis often requires a multidisciplinary or team approach. Many types of health professionals care for people with arthritis. You may choose a few or more of the following professionals to be part of your health care team:

Primary care physicians: doctors who treat patients before they are referred to other specialists in the health care system.

Rheumatologists: doctors who specialize in treating arthritis and related conditions that affect joints, muscles, and bones.

Orthopaedists: surgeons who specialize in the treatment of, and surgery for, bone and joint diseases.

Physical therapists: health professionals who work with patients to improve joint function.

Occupational therapists: health professionals who teach ways to protect joints, minimize pain, perform activities of daily living, and conserve energy.

Dietitians: health professionals who teach ways to use a good diet to improve health and maintain a healthy weight.

Nurse educators: nurses who specialize in helping patients understand their overall condition and implement their treatment plans.

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