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Step 9: Unproven remedies
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Unproven arthritis remedies are treatments that have NOT been:

  • Evaluated by controlled scientific studies, or
  • Proven effective or safe when evaluated by controlled scientific studies

In order to be accepted by the medical community, all medicines and medicinal aids must undergo numerous tests. Such tests must demonstrate that the products are effective in repeated controlled studies. Arthritis remedies, in particular, must show that they are able to accomplish goals such as pain relief, reduction of inflammation, or improvement in joint function.

Tests also must verify that the product is safe, since high frequencies of unwanted side effects limit the usefulness of any treatment. According to a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), 1 in 10 people who have tried unproven arthritis remedies report harmful side effects.

Yet even if an unproven remedy is harmless, it can still have a negative effect if it causes a person to delay or stop using proven arthritis treatments that were prescribed by a knowledgeable physician.

Sometimes an individual may believe that an unproven remedy is effective simply because the remedy was used when symptoms were going into a natural remission (temporary lessening of symptoms).

In addition, disease improvement due to positive thinking -- otherwise known as the placebo effect -- may temporarily relieve symptoms in some people. Unfortunately, such improvement usually is short-lived, while the underlying arthritis progressively worsens.

The following remedies are unproven but most likely harmless:

  • Copper bracelets
  • Vibrators
  • Vinegar and honey drinks
  • Mineral spring soaks
  • Magnets

Unproven but potentially dangerous remedies include:

  • Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)
  • High-dose vitamin treatments
  • Products with hidden ingredients, such as steroids
  • Snake venom


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Review Date: 12/24/2012
Reviewed By: Ariel D. Teitel, MD, MBA, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, NYU Langone Medical Center. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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