Around about 30% of people in the UK use complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) on a regular basis. Many of these CAM users are people with chronic pain caused by problems such as arthritis, back pain and fibromyalgia. Arthritis Research UK has carried out 5 year study into a wide range of therapies to see which ones are effective and which have no scientific evidence to support them.
Twenty five therapies in total were considered and each scored (out of five) on effectiveness in improving pain, disability or quality of life. The therapies were also scored on safety with a Red, Amber or Green grading. Results were as follows:
Rheumatoid Arthritis – very little research as been done on this disease.
Osteoarthritis – Evidence of effectiveness was strongest for Tai Chi which scored 4/5 and Acupuncture which scored 5/5. Both therapies were scored Green for Safety.
Fibromyalgia (FM) – Acupuncture was scored 4/5 and Massage 5/5.
Low Back Pain – Acupuncture scored 4/5, Yoga scored 5/5.
This last result was very pleasing for me as I often suggest some Yoga based exercises alongside for patients to do at home as well as the acupuncture treatment. On the fibromyalgia front, it often depends on how severe and widespread the pain is as to whether I just use acupuncture to treat it, or I use the Alphastim electrotherapy as well. Unfortunately the latter has not been included in the research review, although research in the US where it was developed has shown Alphastim to be effective in treating it.
Hopefully Arthritis Research UK will be successful in getting grants to do further research on CAM…fingers crossed!