Electrical stimulation. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses a cellphone-size gadget to deliver mild electric pulses through the skin to nerve endings. Some patients find this eases arthritis pain, and some but not all studies on the subject have found TENS helpful in this. A physical or occupational therapist can show you how to do this at home.
Acupuncture. Some research has found this ancient Chinese practice effective in easing arthritic pain, possibly by releasing endorphins, the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals.
Self-help. Self-help courses, such as those offered by the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program and the Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program, teach coping strategies and skills so arthritis patients can manage their disease effectively. These workshops have produced lasting benefits in measures such as relief of pain and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Stress management. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, relaxation exercises, visualization and guided imagery can ease pain and give you a greater feeling of control over your disease.
Biofeedback. This technique teaches you to use your mind to change bodily functions that are not generally under conscious control. Limited research suggests biofeedback may ease arthritis, possibly by increasing circulation to joints and reducing inflammation and swelling.
Supplements. Many arthritis patients take glucosamine and chondroitin for joint pain, but research has yielded mixed results about these supplements. A National Institutes of Health study found that though the combo did ease moderate to severe osteoarthritic knee pain, it was no more effective than a placebo for mild knee pain. Scientists are investigating whether the trace mineral selenium can ease or prevent arthritis, but the research is preliminary. Another popular supplement is fish oil capsules containing omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and may produce modest pain relief for people with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
Folk remedies. Some people try everything from wearing copper bracelets to rubbing WD-40 on their joints. No scientific research has found such methods helpful.
Not every therapy is right for everyone. More importantly, most are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and some may interfere with prescribed treatments or be unsafe. Check with your doctor before trying alternative therapies, and work together to develop a pain treatment program that is effective for you.
Reviewed by Vikas Garg, M.D., MSA