The Big Four: CAM Therapies that Actually Work for Wellness

From aromatherapy to reflexology, people use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to address all matters of health concern, but when it comes to the pain and disability associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), fibromyalgia and low back pain, there isn’t much scientific proof that CAM therapies improve wellness. However, UK researchers have found that – in some cases – acupuncture, massage, yoga and tai chi actually work.


For the report, which is one of two published recently by Arthritis Research UK, the researchers evaluated clinical studies on 21 CAM therapies for the four conditions, but asserted that, in many cases, there just weren’t enough high-quality data to fully evaluate the therapies, and so the effectiveness of other CAM therapies remains to be seen. Lead author of the report, Gareth Jones, PhD, a senior lecturer in epidemiology in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, explained, ‘Where there is no or little evidence, it is very difficult to judge.’


The researchers used a five-point scale to judge the effectiveness of each CAM treatment, with a 5 being awarded for consistent evidence from high-quality trials that a therapy improved patients’ pain, disability and quality of life. Treatments’ safety profiles were also rated for the study, this time using a traffic light system in which green was safe, red was unsafe and amber was somewhere in between. The results of the study showed that OA patients’ wellbeing can improve with acupuncture or tai chi, while lower back pain sufferers could benefit from acupuncture, massage and yoga. Acupuncture and massage were also deemed effective for fibromyalgia.


The other CAM therapies included were aromatherapy, autogenic training, biofeedback, copper bracelets, craniosacral therapy, healing therapies, hypnotherapy, imagery, magnet therapy, meditation, music therapy, qigong and reflexology. However, these, unfortunately, came up short. According to Daniel J. Clauw, MD, a professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the message to RA patients is: Don’t use CAM therapies instead of conventional treatments. He says that there are very effective medications on the market to treat RA pain and aggressively address damage to joints, and ‘you could be doing more than wasting time and money while dabbling with CAM therapies if you aren’t also making sure the inflammation is being well controlled.’

Comments are closed.