* Glucosamine. This cartilage builder relieves pain better than NSAIDs like ibuprofen in the long-term (eight weeks) (Curr Med Res Opin, 1982; 8: 145-9). Also, while glucosamine appears to reverse the condition by stimulating cartilage production, NSAIDs may worsen cartilage degeneration (Am J Med, 1987; 83 [5A]: 29-34).
* Copper plus salicylate improved joint inflammation and mobility, and red blood cell levels, in 89 per cent of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers for an average of three years (Inflammation, 1977; 2: 217-38).
* Copper bracelets have also shown a statistically significant improvement in RA compared with a placebo bracelet (Agents Actions, 1976; 6: 454-9).
* Acupuncture. Although the results are mixed, there is good evidence that acupuncture can ease pain and improve mobility in advanced osteoarthritis of the hip for up to eight weeks after treatment (Acupunct Med, 2001; 19: 19-26).
* Electronic stimulation. Electroacupuncture (using a Codetron) is also beneficial (Acupunct Elecrother Res, 1992; 17: 95-105), improving pain, sleep quality and morning stiffness in fibromyalgia patients (BMJ, 1992; 305: 1249-52). Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) is also effective (Alt Ther Clin Pract, 1996; 3: 33-5).
* Herbs. Desert Pride Herbal Food Tablets (containing Yucca plant saponin extract), Boswellia, Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), feverfew, willow bark and the Chinese herb lei gong teng (thunder god vine; Tripterygium Wilfordii Hook) are all supported by scientific evidence of effectiveness in osteoarthritis and RA.
* Homeopathy. Rheumaselect, and Euretin and Paloon-don-Dragées, two patented medicines made in Austria, similarly have proved successful for RA patients.
* Ayurvedic medicine uses curcumin, from the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa), to treat joint inflammation. Guggul (Commiphora mukul), taken together with changes in diet and lifestyle, has also shown benefit.
For more alternatives to drugs and surgery, see WDDTY’s The Arthritis Manual (£29.95).