Arthritic Youth Using Natural Treatments

Juvenile arthritis patients are using complementary and alternative medicine

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) On top of their doctor-prescribed treatments, many adults with arthritis choose to use natural remedies to deal with their pain. Natural treatments also seem to be a popular option among young arthritis patients.

In a recent study, a majority of juvenile arthritis patients said they used at least one type of complementary and alternative medicine. However, less than half of them said they talked with their doctor about using alternative treatments.

"Ask your doctor about using natural therapies for arthritis."

Lead author Elisabeth M. Seburg, of the University of Minnesota, and colleagues wanted to find out how much adolescents use complementary and alternative medicine to treat juvenile arthritis.

Out of the 134 adolescents with juvenile arthritis involved in the study, 72 percent said they used complementary and alternative medicine in one form or another. Yet, only 46 percent of these adolescents said they talked about complementary and alternative medicine with their doctor.

The most commonly used natural therapies were yoga, meditation, relaxation, and guided imagery - a therapy in which thoughts are directed through suggestion in order to focus and relax your mind.

Even those who said they did not use complementary and alternative medicine said they were still interested in looking at certain therapies. These adolescents were most interested in learning more about massage and yoga.

The researchers were also curious about patients' health-related quality of life.

Adolescents who had used massage and meditation, relaxation, or guided imagery were more likely to report a low psychosocial quality of life.

"Youth with [juvenile arthritis] reported high use of [complementary and alternative medicine], but few discussed [complementary and alternative medicine] with health care providers," the authors write.

Steven Z. Kussin, M.D., F.A.C.P., author of Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now, Gaining the Upper Hand in Your Medical Care and a gastroenterology expert who was not involved in the study, brings up one point of concern about this study.

"Are these complementary and alternative medicine treatments truly complementary? Were these young people also on drugs specifically intended to treat rheumatoid arthritis or were they using complementary and alternative medicine instead of them," he asks.

"Rheumatoid arthritis is a destructive process that, without proper intervention, leads to joint deformity, pain and debility," says Dr. Kussin. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis, he says, should be treated with DMARDs, a class of drugs that change the course of the disease.

Seburg and colleagues conclude that their findings suggest doctors should engage their young patients in discussions about complementary and alternative medicine.

The results of the study are published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 14, 2012
Last Updated:
March 21, 2012