Alternative Medicine For Arthritis

Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

Alternative medicine for arthritis is becoming increasingly popular. Find out what works best

Alternative medicine for arthritis is becoming increasingly popular. People are looking for relief from the pain, stiffness and inflammation associated with arthritis which can be so difficult to treat, especially if they don’t want to rely on long term medication. 

Over 20 million people find themselves limited in their day to day activities because of arthritis.  

Arthritis is characterized by damage to the bones and cartilage in joints. The Arthritis Foundation reports that approximately 66% of arthritis sufferers have tried some sort of alternative medicine for arthritis. 

Some of these alternative treatments work really well and have some good evidence behind them. Unfortunately, some of them don’t or need more robust studies to prove their claims.  

Our Favourite Alternative Medicine For Arthritis

Here we will look at some of the most popular alternative medicine for arthritis options. 

You can also find out about other home remedies for arthritis in the supplements and homeopathy sections, or for more conventional treatments visit the Top 15 Arthritis Treatments section.

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1. Anti-Inflammatory Gel

Anti-inflammatory gel can help to reduce knee arthritis pain

There are some creams/gels that can be used as natural alternative medicine for arthritis to reduce pain and inflammation. 

Voltarol Gel (also known as Diclofenac gel) is an NSAID – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can help to reduce arthritis pain. Penetrax is another popular anti-inflammatory cream for arthritis that receives really good reviews. 

Anti-inflammatory creams/gels are one of the most popular home remedies for arthritis and are a good way to relieve pain without the side effects that can be associated with taking medication orally. LEARN MORE >

Read: User Reviews   Buy Now: ON SALE (guide price $19/£5)

2. Capsaicin Cream

Capsaicin is a popular alternative medicine for arthritis

Capsaicin is a popular alternative medicine for arthritis.  Capsaicin is the substance that gives peppers their “heat”.  By rubbing on capsaicin cream you irritate nerve endings which diverts your brains attention away from pain, reducing pain levels*.

Just make sure you wash your hands after application - if you get it in your eyes or mouth it will really sting! LEARN MORE >

Read: User Reviews   Buy Now: ON SALE (guide price $20/£5)

3. TENS Machine

TENS machines can really help to control knee arthritis pain

A TENS machine (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation machine) works by placing electrode pads around a joint which deliver small electric pulses to the area.  TENS tends to provide short term pain relief and can help to reduce stiffness. 

TENS works by suppressing pain signals to the brain and encouraging the body to produce higher levels of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.  While TENS is a very safe way to treat pain, care must be taken where the pads are placed.  LEARN MORE >

Read: User Reviews   Buy Now: ON SALE (guide price $28/£30)

4. Copper Bracelets

Copper is becoming an increasingly popular alternative medicine for arthritis

Wearing copper bracelets is another popular alternative treatment for arthritis.  One study in Australia compared the use of aspirin and aspirin coupled with copper magnets in the treatment of arthritis.  The results showed the group using the copper bracelets responded better than using aspirin in isolation*. Some copper bracelets also have magnets in them for added benefit. LEARN MORE >

Read: User Reviews   Buy Now: ON SALE (guide price $16/£12)

The Best of The Rest

1.  Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the most commonly used alternative medicine for arthritis

One of the most commonly used alternative medicine for arthritis is acupuncture and several trials have shown it to be beneficial in reducing pain. An estimated 3.1 million adults in the US are treated with acupuncture each year. 

Acupuncture consists of small needles being inserted at various specific points around the body to restore balance and reduce pain.  It should only ever be carried out by a licensed acupuncturist.

2.  Essential Oils

Another of the most popular home remedies is massage.  Massaging essentials oils such as five drops of essential oil of ginger in twenty drops of a carrier oil such as wheat germ or almond oil may help relieve pain.  The benefit is however usually short lived. 

3.  Magnets

Using magnets e.g. in knee braces can help to control arthritis pain

Magnets are a popular alternative medicine for arthritis.  They claim to reduce pain and inflammation, increase blood flow and promote general well-being and relaxation.  However, the claims are as yet unproven scientifically.  That said, some people swear by them.  Magnets can be worn at different locations around the body. 

One of the best ways to get the benefits of magnetic therapy is to wear a magnetic knee brace where the magnets surround the joint. LEARN MORE >

4.  Climate

Many people find that a cold, damp climate aggravates their symptoms and find that going to warm climates during winter can help to reduce their pain. 

Arthritis sufferers often comment that they know when bad weather is coming because their joints start hurting.  One theory is that it is the change in air pressure that affects symptoms. 

5.  Diet

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Our new Knee Arthritis Book is out in paperback or for instant download on your Kindle.  Knee Arthritis: Take Back Control: From Exercises To Knee Replacements & Everything In Between

Top tips, exercises and loads more. Paperback or Kindle.

Find Out More

Read Reviews/ Buy Now

Changing your diet can really make a difference.  Certain foods should be avoided as they can increase inflammation and body weight, others can actually help reduce information. You can find out more in the diet for arthritis section.

There are also a number of herbs and fruits that people claim help reduce their pain, such as black cherry juice and about one third of RA sufferers claim that food allergies cause flare-ups in their symptoms.  You can find out more in the homeopathy and supplements alternative medicine for arthritis sections. 

6.  Food Allergies

Many arthritis sufferers say there is a link between what they eat and their symptoms.  There is no one food that by avoiding means you will not get flare ups, but if you feel there is a link between your diet and symptoms see a registered dietician to discuss the issue.  They may suggest a suitable diet elimination plan. 

Should I Try Alternative Medicine for Arthritis?

Whilst the scientific evidence is often lacking when it comes to alternative medicine for arthritis, that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.  Lots of arthritis sufferers swear by them finding them a great addition to more conventional treatment. 

Just remember, you should never opt for alternative medicine for arthritis over proven conventional treatments. They should be used as an adjunct, not a replacement. 

What Else Can Help?   

Alternative medicine for arthritis can indeed be beneficial, but should always be used safely and after consulting your doctor. Some people find oral supplements helpful, some prefer to change their diet, others swear by homeopathy. But remember, conventional treatments have the most evidence behind them with arthritis and are always the best place to start. 

You can also check out our book Knee Arthritis: Take Back Control. It is the top rated book on Knee Arthritis on Amazon with an average user review rating of 4.4/5.  It's packed full of great information from exercises to knee replacements and everything in between.  A perfect guide for anyone who is having a knee joint replacement

And if you want to know more about arthritis in the knee, check out the following articles:

  1. Arthritis Causes: The main causes of arthritis
  2. Symptoms & Diagnosis: The symptoms of OA and how is it diagnosed
  3. Stages of OA: How the disease and symptoms progress
  4. Treatment Options: 15 great ways to reduce arthritis knee pain
  5. Diet For Arthritis: Which foods to avoid and which foods can help
  6. Natural Arthritis Remedies: Including supplements, homeopathy and alternative therapies
  7. Knee Arthritis Surgery: Replacing an arthritic knee with a new one
  8. Beat Knee Arthritis: Everything you need to know in a handy book

Page Last Updated: 11/28/23
Next Review Due: 11/28/25

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1. Capsaican Cream: Best Health Magazine
2.  Arthritis Remedies: Disabled World

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