The terms Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine (abbreviated CAM) are often used interchangeably.
If you are considering using CAM:
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Mind-body therapies—such as meditation, relaxation, and tai chi—are among the most commonly used types of CAM in the United States. They have been used and studied for a variety of pain conditions, including RA. Results from clinical trials suggest that mind-body therapies may be beneficial additions to RA treatment regimens. They may have particular value in helping people cope with their disease.
Surveys suggest that people who use CAM for RA are likely to try dietary and herbal supplements. Although no supplement has shown clear treatment benefits, there is preliminary evidence for a few—particularly fish oil, gamma-linolenic acid, and the herb thunder god vine. Dose, safety, and potential interactions with conventional medicines need to be more thoroughly evaluated.
Fish oil contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids—substances the body needs in order to perform a number of important functions. The body can also use omega-3s to make substances that reduce inflammation. Interest in the use of fish oil for RA stems from observations that groups of people who consumed large amounts of foods rich in omega-3s had lower rates of inflammatory diseases. Types of fish high in omega-3s include herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna. Fish oil supplements are available as capsules or oils.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in the oils of some plant seeds, including evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), borage (Borago officinalis), and black currant (Ribes nigrum). In the body, GLA can be converted into substances that reduce inflammation.
Thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Extracts are prepared from the skinned root of the herb, as other parts of the plant are highly poisonous. Thunder god vine can cause severe side effects. Although widely used in China, commercial thunder god vine products are not readily available in the United States.
Other Types of CAM
Other CAM therapies are used for RA:
Some people with RA may try following special diets—such as vegetarian and vegan diets, the Mediterranean diet, and periods of fasting—to control symptoms. Research on these diet approaches has been inconclusive. While a few studies suggest that decreasing or eliminating consumption of meat, dairy, or foods likely to cause allergies may be helpful in some cases, others do not. One drawback is that special diets may be difficult for people to follow over time. In addition, some diets could put people at risk for nutritional deficiencies.If You Have RA and Are Thinking About Using CAM
Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about CAM, see the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s (NCCAM) Time to Talk campaign at nccam.nih.gov/timetotalk/.
CAM begins with regular supervised exercise: strongly recommended for all arthritis patients to
Exercise is essential for treatment of arthritis, yet more than 33 percent of arthritis patients say they do not exercise!
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