Skip to main content

Use of complementary therapies by individuals with ‘arthritis’


The popularity of complementary medicine is at an all-time high. Rheumatological patients are amongst its most frequent users. This survey was aimed at generating insight into this phenomenon. A self-selected convenience sample of 3384 individuals with ‘arthritis’ was sent a purpose-designed questionnaire. 1020 completed questionnaires were received (response rate =30.1%). One third of respondents had received at least one treatment from a complementary practitioner. Orthodox therapies were generally perceived as more effective than complementary treatments. Therapeutic encounters with complementary practitioners were viewed as markedly more satisfying than those with GPs. Adverse effects reported in connection with orthodox treatments were more frequent and severe than those reported with complementary therapies. No firm conclusions can be drawn from these data. However, a hypothesis emerges that complementary medicine is well accepted by rheumatological patients and perceived to have certain advantages over mainstream medicine.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Kronfeld JJ, Wasner C. The use of unorthodox therapies and marginal practitioners. Soc Sci Med 1994;16:1119–25

    Google Scholar 

  2. Boisset M, Fitzcharles MA. Alternative medicine use by rheumatology patients in a universal health care setting. J Rheumatol 1994;21:148–52.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Cronan TA, Kaplan RM, Posner L, Blumberg E, Kozin F. Prevalence of the use of unconventional remedies for arthritis in a metropolitan community. Arch Rheum 1989;32:1604–7.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Visser GJ, Peters L, Raser JJ. Rheumatologists and their patients who seek alternative care, an agreement to disagree. Br J Rheumatol 1992;31:485–490.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ernst E. Patients' Perception of Complementary Therapies. Forsch Komplementärmed 1995;2:326–29.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Jacobs JWG, Rasker JJ, van Riel PLCM, Gribnan FWJ, van der Putte LBA. Complementary medicine in rheumatic diseases. A review of the literature. Ned Tijdschr Geneesk1991;135:317–22.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Oepen I. Pseudo-natural treatment and outsider methods in rheumatology. Ztschr Rheumatol 1993;52:264–74.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Puett DW, Griffin MR. Published trials of non-medicinal and non-invasive therapies for hip and knee osteoarthritis. Ann Intern Med 1994;121:133–40

    Google Scholar 

  9. Ernst E. Bitter pills of nature: safety issues in complementary medicine. PAIN 1995;60:237–238.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Abbot NC, White AR, Ernst E. Complementary Medicine. Nature 1996;381:361.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ernst E, De Smet. Adverse effects of complementary therapies. In Meyler's Side Effects, Duke (Ed.) Elseviert, Amsterdam 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Raben H, Jorgensen KC, Aggerness KH. Use of alternative treatment in hospital staff in a psychiatry and a rheumatology department. Ugeskr Laeger 1993;155:803–6

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Resch, K.L., Hill, S. & Ernst, E. Use of complementary therapies by individuals with ‘arthritis’. Clin Rheumatol 16, 391–395 (1997).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: