Alternative Therapies

Relaxation therapy


Yoga is a mind and body type therapy involving controlled movements, postures and breathing. Yoga has been demonstrated to have significant improvement for pain relief and physical function in studies [10]. Osteoarthritis sufferers who adhere to yoga on a regular basis have shown improved symptoms, physical function, sleep quality, and quality of life in comparison with people who do not engage in regular yoga [12].

Chair Yoga

Chair yoga is just like normal yoga, but a chair is used as external support. One specific study has observed an 8-week chair yoga program. This study has shown reduction in pain, fatigue, and improvement in gait speed. The effects on pain interference had been sustained 3 months post 8 week program.  Ongoing chair-yoga is potentially a viable option for people to consider using to maintain pain relief benefits [11].

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a slow focused series of movements used as a form of exercise. It is accompanies by accompanied by deep breathing for control and a sense of relaxation. Tai Chi has demonstrated significant improvement for quality of life, pain relief and physical function [10].

Conclusion of relaxation therapies

There are many different mind and body exercises available. The type of exercises is related to the individuals’ preference, there is no set guide that applies to everyone.  These exercises and movement patterns appear to be promising in reducing pain, aiding in physical function and quality of life for people who suffer from osteoarthritis [10]. It is recommended these activities to be undertaken in conjunction with other alternative therapies.

Some studies have shown mind and body focus controlled exercises have provided patients with the ability to control pain during other unrelated invasive medical procedures [13].

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy, alternatively known as unwanted behaviour therapy, focuses on altering patterns of habit that we may have fallen into. This type of therapy has shown improvements in social and physical function. Additionally, the individuals whom have gone through this therapy have shown up to 25% improvements in coping with chronic pain in comparison to similar patients whom have not exercised cognitive behavioural therapy [1].

Cognitive behaviour therapy can include removal of poor functioning habits such as smoking, lifting techniques, walking pattern/stride, sleeping patterns and much more. Smoking, poor sleep and stress are all associated with low-grade inflammation and hyper-immune response [8]. By understanding and educating individuals with this type of therapy, it is another good step to controlling your arthritis restrictions.

Electrical Stimulation Therapy

Electrical stimulation therapy such as;

  • H-TENS – high frequency transcutaneouselectrical nerve stimulation
  • L-TENS – low frequency transcutaneouselectrical nerve stimulation
  • NMES – neuromuscular electrical stimulation
  • PES – pulsed electrical stimulation
  • IFC – interferential current
  • NIN – non-invasive interactive neuro stimulation

The intent of electrical stimulation therapy is to send frequent pulses of light electricity to the areas of pain, this allows the nerves to “get used to the pain” and expect it. Overtime, nerve function can dim the pain signals it is receiving, thus decreasing pain.

Meta-analysis of medical publications has looked at 27 trials and they have assessed 6 kinds of electrical stimulation therapies as listed above. Amongst all of these electrical stimulation therapies, they have concluded IFC to be the only option that stands above the rest. It has shown significant effect in controlling the intensity of pain [14].


Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles in the skin at specific points.  There have been multiple studies looking at acupuncture and the ability of this therapy to control pain. Meta-analysis of these studies confirms acupuncture can provide pain relief but only in the short term. It has been more successful in helping improve muscle function as opposed to direct pain relief [15].

Additionally to the point mentioned above, scientific evidence focuses acupuncture on spine related issues such as lower back, neck and shoulder pain as effectively as other treatments [1].


Balenotherapy known as mud or mineral baths therapy.

Studies have looked at a group of 21 patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis. Focusing on mud therapy and the after effects on patient’s joint pain and function, the study reveals improved the knee function and OA-related pain. These studies have reported a better health-related quality of life and some studies indicate improvements to pain relief by up to 30% [1].  These published documents consider Balenotherapy to have a therapeutic effect on the individual by creating a mode of deep relaxation. Deep relaxation has been linked to having a systemic anti-inflammatory effect and promotes immune regulation. [16].

However, systemic reviews consider multiple studies to be biased with minimal scientific evidence to back up their claims. Overall evidence is insufficient to show that balenotherapy is more effective than no treatment, and comparisons to other modes of relaxation therapy are not considered [17]. Balenotherapy can be a cheap and safe option to achieve deep relaxation, individuals can consider this approach into their weekly routines.

Read about more treatment options for osteoarthritis on this page.

All references can be found in our list of references page here.