The Wide Variety of Alternative Therapies... A Close Peek!

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Information from the Arthritis Foundation and thew National Institutes of Health

Acupuncture and acupressure:

This has been a major component of Chinese medicine for more than 2,500 years. The theory is that essential life energy- called qi- flows through the body along invisible channels called meridians. Imbalance in the flow of qi leads to illness. Stimulation of specific points along meridians can correct the abnormality of flow and thus heal illness.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into the skin at predetermined meridian points. Acupressure is a method where pressure is applied to these points but no needle is inserted.

How acupuncture works is still unclear. Several processes have been proposed to explain acupuncture effects. Three main mechanisms are:

• Conduction of electromagnetic signals. These signals may start the flow of pain-killing bio chemicals such as endorphins and of immune cells to injured sites in the body.

• Activation of opioid systems in the central nervous system leading to pain reduction.

• Changes in brain chemistry, sensation, and involuntary body functions. Release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones is affected.

Acupuncture is usually performed by a trained Chinese medicine specialist who will take a history and perform a physical examination. Very fine needles will be inserted at specific points. Sometimes these needles are attached to electrical current. Multiple needles may be inserted at different points. A session lasts about 20-30 minutes. Acute conditions will generally respond quicker than chronic conditions. Acupuncture often requires more than one session. While pain relief is often achieved, reduction of inflammation is not as readily noted. Acupuncture may involve follow-up treatments.

The primary certifying organization is the national Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Medical doctors who perform acupuncture may belong to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.

Make sure the acupuncturist is licensed and certified. Make doubly sure they use sterile single use disposable needles.

Inquire as to activity level permitted before and after treatments.

If you aren’t better within six or so sessions, you may not improve.

If herbs are dispensed, make sure you are told about potential side-effects. Be careful if you are taking other medicines. There may be interaction between your medicines and the herbs.

Bottom line: Worth looking into


One of the most primitive parts of the brain is the olfactory lobe. This governs the sense of smell and the sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses we have. Smell can elicit pleasant or unpleasant memories of the past. Smell can also change the way you feel. Think of the smell of freshly baked bread!

Aromatherapy uses different scents to create a sense of well-being. The goal is to induce calm, relieve stress and pain, and promote healing.

Scents such as lilac or lavender seem to have soothing effects. Whether this translates to an actual healing potential is difficult to say. Studies are sparse.

Bottom line: pleasant but unproven

Ayer Veda

This is an ancient (more than 5,000 years old) Indian healing tradition. The theory is that all of existence consists of life energy (called prana) and five key elements (earth, fire, water, air, and ether). The life energy and the elements are expressed as three physiologic energies, called doshas.

The five elements are constantly shifting within the doshas. Health is achieved by maintaining harmony among the elements and the life energy within the doshas.

Balance is achieved through the use of meditation, purification, yoga, massage, a vegetarian diet, and breathing exercises, called pranayama.

An Ayer Vedic physician will take a history and perform a physical examination. They will evaluate your dosha and prescribe a regimen of exercises, yoga (asanas), herbs, meditation, and breathing.

Digestion and elimination are key components of Ayer Vedic medicine. Purification regimens called panchakarma will be instituted. Among the elements involved are fasting, colon cleansing, and massage.

Ayer Vedic medicine makes sense in its advocacy of a healthy lifestyle (vegetarian diet, exercise, meditation).

Practitioners may belong to the National Institute of Ayer Vedic medicine.

As with other health care practitioners, make sure you let the Ayer Vedic practitioner know what medicines you take. If herbs are given, make sure you know what they are and what type of interactions to expect with the medicines you already take.

If colon cleansing is recommended, make absolutely sure all equipment and facilities are clean.

Bottom line: worth looking into

Bee Venom

This used to be considered hocus-pocus. No longer. There is evidence that been venom contains at least eighteen powerful anti inflammatory compounds that can relieve pain. In addition, bee venom stimulates the release of cortisol, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, all of which help relieve the pain, stiffness, and swelling of arthritis. Very few physicians will administer this therapy. Beekeepers found through the American Apitherapy Society may be helpful resources.

Use caution. Anaphylactic shock and death is a potential side-effect.

Bottom line: be very, very careful


This is a method that teaches people how to control a specific body function. It has been especially useful in reducing stress, relieving anxiety, reducing muscle spasm, alleviating pain, and improving gastrointestinal problems.

Sensors are placed on the body and these are connected to a computer. The computer measures a variety of parameters including skin temperature, heart rate, or brain waves.

The patient is taught relaxation or visualization exercises. At the same time, the computer provides feedback in the form of sounds or lights. Over time, the patient finds that he or she can elicit the physical response by following the cues provided by the computer.

Two arthritis conditions where biofeedback has been found to be particularly effective are fibromyalgia and Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Biofeedback devices are relatively inexpensive. And biofeedback training is provided by many physical therapists and medical doctors.

Bottom line: can be useful

Chinese medicine

This medical discipline is focused on two concepts: first, balance involving yin (feminine) and yang (masculine); second, qi or life force. Qi flows through the body along invisible channels called meridians. Illness occurs when the normal flow of qi is disrupted.

Treatments are aimed at maintaining proper flow of qi and maintaining the optimal balance between yin and yang.

This is accomplished through a number of practices including gentle exercises (tai chi, qi dong), acupuncture, acupressure, massage, cupping (using special suction cups applied at specific points along meridians to remove impediments to the flow of qi), moxibustion (using special herbs attached to acupuncture needles... the herbs are then lit. The heat draws the impediment to qi away from the body), and Chinese herbs.

Make sure you understand what herbs you are going to take and what type of interaction there may be with the medicines you are taking. If you decide on acupuncture, make sure the needles are sterile, disposable, single use needles.

Bottom Line: worth trying


The theory is that misalignment of the spinal vertebrae is responsible for all diseases. Why? Because, the body is affected by the nervous system. The nervous system runs down through the spinal cord and can be adversely affected by spinal dysfunction. By adjusting these misalignments (subluxations), chiropractors feel they can cure various disorders.

Most chiropractors do a combination of spinal manipulation and other techniques such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, massage, herbs, vitamins, and dietary counseling. Some also perform acupuncture.

A chiropractor will take a history and do a physical examination. He or she may order x-rays.

The patient is placed on a special table. Pressure is then applied to ease the spine or joint into proper alignment. Sometimes the pressure is gentle; other times it may be vigorous and forceful.

Chiropractors go through intensive training. When they receive their degree they are called doctors of chiropractic (D.C.) Chiropractors, like any practitioner, will vary widely in expertise and experience. Chiropractors are not permitted to dispense medicines or perform surgery. If you don’t get better within 4 weeks, you probably won’t improve.

Chiropractic treatment has helped millions of people. While it may not be effective for internal disorders, it seems to be very helpful for many patients with acute low back and neck problems.

Use extreme caution if you have osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis since serious injury may result from manipulation.

Bottom line: worth trying.

Color therapy

Colors influence the way we think at a subconscious level. Why this happens is unclear. Large corporations spend millions of dollars annually trying to find the right colors that will attract customers. For instance, red, orange, and yellow stimulate the appetite. Do you think the fast food industry has picked up on that? Does this have an effect in arthritis? Your guess is as good as mine.

Bottom line: thumbs down

Copper bracelets

The amount of copper you get from one of these is less than you can get from a good nutritional supplement. Save your money and use the nutritional supplement. If you want to get one because you think they look cool, then that’s different.

Bottom line: won’t help your arthritis

Food therapy

Arthritis may be helped or aggravated by certain foods. Diets high in saturated fat are probably pro-inflammatory while diets high in omega-3 fish oils are anti-inflammatory. Examples of these are sardines, mackerel, herring, lake trout, salmon, blue fish, and mullet.

A diet high in purines will aggravate gout (see Gout).

Recent evidence suggests that allergies to certain foods may make aches and pains worse. For some people, getting tested for IgG food allergies may make sense. Immuno Laboratories in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has a good assay.

Other diets such as avoiding nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) may help some people. Fasting has been advocated and may work temporarily. The same goes for vegetarian diets. Dairy products seem to make arthritis worse in some people.

For sure, if you’re overweight, that’s going to make weight-bearing joints such as the low back and knees worse.

Bottom line: worth looking into if nothing else is working. Maintaining ideal weight is key.

Guided imagery

Also known as visualization, this form lf alternative therapy costs nothing and is extremely valuable. To achieve the end result, you are taught how to enter a state of deep relaxation. You then are guided by voice to visualize the desired outcome or goal Sometimes, the images in your mind that you are guided to are past experiences that have been happy times for you. Other images may be peaceful relaxing places such as a babbling brook or a stretch of white beach. Guided imagery has been used as a healing process and a pain relieving therapy. So the picture that might be suggested to you to visualize is a healthy pain free you doing an enjoyable activity.

Sometimes guided imagery is used as “practice” before a major event such as giving a speech or engaging in an athletic competition. By visualizing the process ahead of time, it is possible to improve performance. Athletes and actors do this all the time.

There is some evidence that guided imagery may improve immune function. For sure, it can help patients to cope better.

While there are instructors who can help with this, there are also many excellent books and tapes available. It is not a difficult technique to master.

Bottom line: definitely worth doing


Founded by Samuel Hahnemann in the 18th century, homeopathy is based on the premise that there is a vital life force in all living creatures. If stimulated by a small amount of the proper remedy, the body will heal itself.

Diagnosis is based on symptoms. Treatment is designed to administer remedies that create the same type of symptoms (“like cures like”)

The weaker the remedy, the stronger the response by the body. Homeopathic remedies are very diluted.

A homeopathic physician will take a history and perform an examination. They will then recommend a remedy. Since these remedies are so diluted, they are regulated as over-the-counter medicines by the FDA.

Homeopathy is generally safe. Make sure you do not stop any conventional medicines suddenly. And make your homeopathic physician aware of what medicines you are taking.

Bottom line: worth trying


Magnets have been felt to have mystical powers for centuries. These hold a mysterious allure. Nearly $150 million worth of magnets are sold as medical products annually in the United States.

Some small studies have demonstrated beneficial effects for patients with painful conditions. Despite multiple claims of positive effect and just as many studies indicating negative effect, the jury remains out.

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy does have beneficial effects. Studies done in osteoarthritis of the knee have confirmed a positive albeit mild to moderate effect on pain relief. The data regarding the smaller static magnets though is less compelling. We looked at magnets a few years ago at our center. For every patient that seemed to get better, there was another patient who did not.

Bottom line: probably a placebo effect. There’s nothing wrong with that if it works for you


This is the practice burning specific herbs, generally, mugwort, at specific acupuncture points. The herbs are placed on top of the acupuncture needle as it is placed at a meridian point. Bottom line: it works

Music therapy

Soothing music may help you feel better. In one study, students who listened to Mozart actually did better on exams than those who either listened to something else or who did not listen to any music. It certainly can't hurt.

Bottom line: no data in arthritis


This is the prototypical holistic medical approach. Naturopathic physicians encourage good habits, exercise, proper attitudes, lifestyle changes that will allow the body to heal itself.

Among the treatments that might be administered are homeopathy, herbs, nutritional counseling, and massage.

Many naturopathic physicians have training in other areas such as acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicine, and Ayer Vedic medicine.

A naturopathic physician will take a history and do a physical examination. They will then recommend lifestyle changes and nutritional counseling.

Bottom line: worth looking into

Neurolinguistic Programming

Developed by two scientists, Bandler and Grinder, neurolinguistic programming or NLP is a method of programming your brain using different types of visualization exercises. It seems to help with some phobias. It has also been used by athletes and business executives. As with guided imagery, NLP may be helpful but there is no data in arthritis patients.

Bottom line: no data available

Osteopathic medicine

Traditional osteopathic physicians believed that the musculoskeletal system regulated the health of the entire organism. A problem with the musculoskeletal system could cause disease... and conversely, disease could cause an abnormality in the musculoskeletal system. If structural problems were corrected, the body could heal.

Also, it was believed that improved blood flow could ameliorate disease and that manipulation techniques could improve blood flow.

Osteopaths often will recommend soft tissue manipulation much like chiropractors.

Today, osteopaths have the same level of training as MDs. They often will go through the same residency and fellowship training that MDs do.

They do tend to place more of an emphasis on musculoskeletal health.

Bottom line: Yes


An important part of Ayer Veda, yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga can improve muscle strength, balance, flexibility, and promote a sense of well-being.

Breathing techniques unique to yoga may help combat fatigue and increase mental sharpness.

Several schools of yoga exist. They are based on a certain set of postures called asanas and breathing techniques called pranayama.

A recent study indicated yoga may be effective for carpal tunnel syndrome. An older study has shown effectiveness in osteoarthritis of the hand.

For patients with arthritis, yoga provides a full body low impact workout. It is important to find a good instructor, particularly one with experience in managing arthritis.

Studies in the literature do support a positive effect in helping patient with osteoarthritis.

Bottom line: Yes… try it

Get more information about types of alternative therapies for arthritis and related topics as well as...

• Insider arthritis tips that help you erase the pain and fatigue of rheumatoid arthritis almost overnight!

• Devastating ammunition against low back pain... discover 9 secrets!

• Ignored remedies that eliminate fibromyalgia symptoms quickly!

• Obsolete treatments for knee osteoarthritis that still are used... and may still work for you!

• The stiff penalties you face if you ignore this type of hip pain...

• 7 easy-to-implement neck pain remedies that work like a charm!

• And much more...

Click here Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

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