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Alternative Medicine for Arthritis Essay

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Updated: Apr 30th, 2022

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The current statistics indicate that close to 6 million Americans are suffering from a particular form of Arthritis. Arthritis is a disease that usually affects old people and the risk of contracting the disease increases with age. The disease mostly affects the joints and causes swelling, weakening and pain in the joints. There are two forms of arthritis: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis (Cherniack 340). Like most other untreatable diseases that have been extensively researched and characterized, there has been an emergence of alternative medicine for managing arthritis. Current directions in alternative medicine are geared towards preventing the advancement of the disease and managing the symptoms.

Factors such as the cost of conventional medication and side effects have led to the proposition of a range of alternative medications (Cherniack 347). The pharmacology of alternative medications is not well documented and there is little evidence on whether they can complement or replace conventional medication in the management or even treatment of arthritis. The paper will look at some of the key considerations in choosing a form of medication and establish whether there is a possibility of replacing conventional medication with an alternative medication, or whether alternative medication can act as a good complement.

Side Effects

The drugs mostly used for the treatment of arthritis are aimed at reducing pain (analgesics) and preventing further inflammation (anti-inflammatory). According to Aronson, analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs have been known to lead to viral and bacterial infections, and could also be transferred to the baby of a breastfeeding mother through breast milk (541). Alternative medications according to Michael, should be used with caution because they also present certain risks (58).

For instance, acupuncture is only a short term pain reliever, Ginger, which is used as an analgesic, causes heartburn and diarrhea. However, the use of magnet therapy does not have any known side effects (Michael 59). Both the conventional and alternative drugs for the treatment of arthritis have their unique side effects. However, the side effects of conventional drugs appear to be more medically serious as compared to the side effects of alternative drugs. For instance, ginger may only cause heartburn while a conventional drug-like Infliximab leads to tuberculosis.


The cost of conventional medication for the treatment of arthritis has also been a factor that has driven many people to opt for alternative therapies. According to a study conducted by Null and Seaman, the sale of drugs for the management of arthritis totalled US$ 27 million in 2005 and the figure was expected to rise even further (50). Unlike treatment, the management of an illness is a continuous undertaking because the medication only reduces the side effects for some time. Although alternative medications for arthritis such as acupuncture, magnet therapy or the use of natural drugs also cost money, Null and Seaman outline that the cost is much lower as compared to the conventional medications (52). In addition, alternative medications do not place significant pressure on the health care system because they can be produced cheaply domestically.

The general realization is that the cost of conventional arthritis medication is an important factor that can drive individuals to consider alternative medication. Conventional drugs always use natural products such as ginger, magnet and omega 3 oils most of which can be obtained easily without having to go to a hospital to get a prescription. In essence, alternative drugs for arthritis are accessible both in terms of cost and in terms of availability.


Safety is a key consideration when choosing a type of medication because it would be illogical to give a medication that might cause other problems or further complicate the current problem. Conventional drugs are usually undertaken through clinical tests and trials to ensure that they are safe for human consumption. During clinical tests and trials, scientists can establish aspects such as the effective route of administration, the long terms and short-time side effects and pharmacokinetics of the drug (Gad 33). Before a conventional drug is made available for human consumption, the relevant authorities have to ascertain that it will not cause further risks or the risks are lesser than the projected benefits.

However, when it comes to alternative medications, it is usually difficult to establish the risks associated because most of them are produced and used on small scale. In addition, a factor such as a cost usually prevents the producers from employing clinical tests and trials that are exhaustive. According to Cherniack (343), the fact that a particular medication is obtained from natural sources does not mean that it is completely harmless. Cherniack gives an example of ginger that might lead to blood coagulation even though it is a natural substance. The administration of conventional drugs is usually accompanied by prescriptions from professionals and follow ups to determine the effect of the drugs on the individual patient.

However, alternative drugs are mostly administered locally with little follow ups from the doctors. The general realization is that alternative drugs might pose additional problems especially in instances where an individual is allergic to the drug (Cherniack 348). These considerations make conventional drugs safer as compared to alternative drugs. Safety is not only an issue that affects alternative drugs used in the management of arthritis but also most other diseases, and it has been a subject of extensive debate in medicine.

Given the discussion, most alternative drugs used in the treatment of arthritis are aimed at avoiding the shortcomings evident in conventional medications. Conventional drugs for arthritis are very expensive and an individual who would rather take naturally available ginger, than aspirin is relatively costly. Concerning side effects, both conventional and alternative medications have their unique side effects. However, conventional drugs have more serious side effects as compared to alternative drugs. Normally, conventional drugs are considered safer to take because they are known to have undergone extensive clinical tests and trials as per government regulations.

However, the safety of alternative medication is usually questionable because they do not usually undergo extensive clinical tests and trials. In essence, conventional drugs are still medically safe. Concerning the current information on alternative drugs used in the treatment of arthritis, they should not be used as complete replacements for the management of arthritis. Alternative drugs can only be used in situations where doctors have ascertained beyond reasonable doubt that they can manage a certain aspect of the condition effectively. However, these drugs can still act as better complements in areas where conventional drugs are not effective. However, with further developments in research, there is hope that alternative drugs can be used more because they are less costly.

Works Cited

Aronson, Jeffrey K. Meyler’s Side Effects of Analgesics and Anti-inflammatory Drugs. San Diego, CA: Elsevier, 2010. Print.

Cherniack, Paul. Alternative Medicine for the Elderly. Berling: Springer-Verlag, 2003. Print.

Gad, Shayne Cox. Drug Safety Evaluation. New Jersey: John Wiley, 2009. Print.

Michael, Angelillo. All about Arthritis- Find Updated Causes, Symptoms, Diagnostic Tests, New Alternative Treatments, Cures and Breakthroughs. New York: iUniverse, 2009. Print.

Null, Gary. For Women Only: Your Guide to Health Empowerment. New York: Sage, 2003.

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