How to choose complementary therapies?

How to Choose Complementary Therapies?

someone writting a list in a notebookFinding a complementary therapy that is right for you can take time. Consider making a list of all the symptoms and concerns you would like to address with complementary therapy, and then compare your list to the types of symptoms and concerns each form of complementary therapy can help with. This can help you narrow down where to start.

You may find you need to try more than one form of complementary therapy, or a few in combination to help improve your symptoms. For example, some people may choose to use Traditional Chinese Medicine and also attend talk therapy, or another person may choose to only use naturopathy. The best fit for you will not necessarily work for anyone else so it is important to consider what you need, and want from complementary therapy.

Keep in mind complementary therapies will not cure, or make all of your symptoms go away, but they may be able to help reduce symptoms, or provide you with more ways to cope with symptoms. It is okay to try more than one form of complementary therapy before you settle on something that works for you. 

Finding reliable sources

When learning about different complementary therapies and what you might like to try, it is important to make sure that the source where you get your information is trustworthy and that the information is based on reliable scientific research

Treatments must be shown to be effective in clinical studies where the treatments are tested on people who have arthritis. These studies must be supervised and reviewed by recognized experts in the field of arthritis, usually someone with academic credentials such as an MD or PhD. 

Patient testimonials or product statements that are not backed by research evidence isn’t a reliable source, as these testimonials are often personal opinion rather than studied and analyzed results. Research studies should also involve a large number of participants, be able to show that the treatment is effective for a significant number of people, and show the research wasn’t influenced by outside factors, or biases. This means that studies showing a positive effect on five or ten people is not enough to claim that the treatment will generally be effective for people with arthritis.

Also, if the research was conducted or paid for by a company that stands to make money from the success of the treatment, the results could be influenced, biased, and unreliable.

Points to remember

Don’t forget that there is still no known cure for arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, the Arthritis Society, along with other organizations, has been funding research in the search for a cure for arthritis. 

Although many effective medications and treatments have been found, no cure has been discovered to date. As you look for information about arthritis, you may find a number of claims stating that products can cure arthritis. Always read the fine print and be cautious of the promises these treatments make. Considering that there are more than 100 forms of arthritis in adults and children, it is unlikely that there will be only one cure to address all types of arthritis.

Finding trustworthy information and treatment options

The internet has become our go-to source for information, and while there are many accurate sources of knowledge and research online, there are also many false claims about “cures” for arthritis, or false promises about what a treatment option can do for you. It’s important to remember there is currently no cure for arthritis, and no matter what anyone claims, they cannot cure your arthritis for you.

Verifying the credibility of the information you find online can be difficult, but there are several ways to be sure that what you are reading is trustworthy. 

  • An older woman looking at a tabletBe cautious of information that is passed on to you as a testimonial. “It helped me and my friends, so it will help you.” 

  • Avoid anything that results in financial benefit for the promoter.

  • Look for credible studies or proof that your complementary therapy choice is beneficial for your type of arthritis and is safe for you to try.

  • If you are considering purchasing a product, it’s important to be cautious of items that are sold through multi-level marketing schemes. These products are sold by people you may know or be acquainted with, but they have a financial interest in getting you not only to buy the product but to begin selling it as well. These opportunities are often more about the sales pyramid rather than the product being sold. 

  • Avoid therapies or treatments that use words such as “miracle”, “cure” and “guaranteed”. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Questions to ask yourself when you are learning about complementary therapies

  • Is the author an expert in the field with recognized credentials and a professional designation?

  • Is the information published on the website of a recognized, well-known, highly regarded organization?

  • Is the information current and relevant to your type of arthritis and situation?

  • If you are seeking treatment for a child: Is the information sufficient to demonstrate its safe use for children?

  • Is the information Canadian-based? If not, where did the study take place? Is it still relatable to a Canadian context?

  • Is the resource easy to understand with user-friendly language?

  • Does the resource provide well-balanced information that suits your lifestyle?

  • Does the resource avoid promises of “quick-fix” solutions or “cures”?

  • Does the information encourage you to consult with your healthcare provider?

  • Is the study funded by a company or person that sells the product?

Talk with your healthcare team

If you do try a complementary therapy, remember to discuss this decision with your healthcare team and let them know right away if you have any negative experiences or side effects. 

Someone talking with someone via video callAlso, keep in mind that a team approach to managing arthritis often produces better results. Working with a healthcare team  that has various specialists and professionals helps ensure that you are receiving the most appropriate care and treatments for you. 

If there are complementary therapies that you believe will help relieve your symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider.

Even though you know your body best, it is suggested to always consult with a member of your healthcare team that you trust and who can guide you on what complementary treatment options may be best for your needs. If you are considering complementary therapies, the risks and benefits should be discussed with your doctor, especially if you are thinking of changing or replacing prescribed treatments. 

If you see more than one healthcare professional, it’s important to keep track of the individual treatment information and to share the advice of one team member with your other providers. This sharing of information helps ensure that your treatment plan is the most effective. 

Learn about your type of arthritis

There are more than 100 types of arthritis in adults and children, with various ways to treat and manage them. The two main categories are osteoarthritis and inflammatory types of arthritis. Being informed about your specific type of arthritis will help you and your healthcare team determine the best treatment plan for you.

Understanding and trusting research information 

When looking for information from research studies, keep in mind that a single research study is often not enough on its own to draw any conclusions about how effective a treatment option is. If the results are similar from multiple studies, the results are more likely to be reliable. 

Recommended online resources 

Below is a list of online resources that can help you learn more about complementary therapies. 

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Online publications


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