Complementary and alternative treatments show promise for arthritis

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, looked at more than 250 patients as old as 90 and as young as 20. Approximately two-thirds of the subjects had rheumatoid arthritis, while the remaining participants had osteoarthritis. In addition to the traditional drug therapy, the patients also received complementary and alternative treatments (CAT), a term for practices that fall outside the standard drug care for medical conditions.

Researchers found that approximately 64 percent of participants said CAT was effective and reported improvement in a number of areas, including lower pain intensity, better sleeping patterns and increases in their activity levels. The team hopes the findings serve as a signal to healthcare professionals to consider a wider breadth of treatment when it comes to arthritis.

"Our study underlines the importance of healthcare professionals being knowledgeable about the potential use of CAT when providing medical care to patients with arthritis," said lead author Nada Alaaeddine.

Study participants used a wide variety of treatments. While herbal therapy was the most commonly used - with 83 percent of subjects choosing it - other options such as exercise (21 percent), massage (12 percent) and acupuncture (3 percent) also showed promise in treating the pain and discomfort of arthritis. 

Developing effective treatments for arthritis is something that is of great concern to many seniors and is an important part of healthy aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 50 million Americans have been told they have some form of arthritis, with approximately 50 percent of adults over 65 report having been diagnosed.