A systematic review of evidence for the effectiveness of practitioner-based complementary and alternative therapies in the management of rheumatic diseases: Osteoarthritis

Gary J. Macfarlane*, Priya Paudyal, Michael Doherty, Edzard Ernst, George Lewith, Hugh MacPherson, Julius Sim, Gareth T. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To critically review the evidence on the efficacy and effectiveness of practitioner-based complementary therapies for patients with osteoarthritis. We excluded t'ai chi and acupuncture, which have been the subject of recent reviews. Methods: Randomized controlled trials, published in English up to May 2011, were identified using systematic searches of bibliographic databases and searching of reference lists. Information was extracted on outcomes, statistical significance in comparison with alternative treatments and reported side effects. The methodological quality of the identified studies was determined using the Jadad scoring system. Outcomes considered were pain and patient global assessment. Results: In all, 16 eligible trials were identified covering 12 therapies. Overall, there was no good evidence of the effectiveness of any of the therapies in relation to pain or global health improvement/quality of life because most therapies only had a single randomized controlled trial. Where positive results were reported, they were often comparing an active intervention with no intervention. Therapies with multiple trials either provided null (biofeedback) or inconsistent results (magnet therapy), or the trials available scored poorly for quality (chiropractic). There were few adverse events reported in the trials. Conclusion: There is not sufficient evidence to recommend any of the practitioner-based complementary therapies considered here for the management of OA, but neither is there sufficient evidence to conclude that they are not effective or efficacious.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2224-2233
Number of pages10
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012



  • Complementary medicine
  • Global health
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain
  • Practitioners
  • Randomized controlled trials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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