Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are common causes of morbidity in Australia. In a South Australian Health Omnibus survey, 26% of participants aged 18 years and over reported having doctor-diagnosed arthritis; of these, two-thirds reported health related quality of life below that of Australian population norms.1
While effective drugs are available to deal with the
symptoms and modify the progress of osteoarthritis and
rheumatoid arthritis, these may cause serious adverse
events and not all patients will obtain relief. Many people
with these diseases use complementary medicines.
This article presents an overview of the evidence for the
most promising complementary therapies for osteoarthritis
and rheumatoid arthritis, with other information that
general practitioners need to know.
There is reasonable evidence to support the use of
glucosamine, avocado/soybean unsaponifiables and
chondroitin in osteoarthritis, and omega-3 fatty acids and
gammalinolenic acid in rheumatoid arthritis. However, no
current evidence does not equate to lack of effectiveness.
Rigorous research into the use of complementary
medicines in arthritis is evolving and many of the
systematic reviews used in preparation of this article are
being updated every few years to incorporate new trial
evidence as it becomes available.
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