Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Psoriatic Arthritis
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2022 | Last updated: June 2023
People with chronic diseases like psoriatic arthritis (PsA) often turn to complementary and alternative medicines. With these therapies, many people get help to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.1,2
What is alternative medicine?
Alternative medicine refers to products or practices that are not part of mainstream treatment given by doctors. Some people look to alternative medicines instead of traditional medical care to treat a condition.3
What is complementary medicine?
Complementary medicine is used in combination with traditional medicine. For example, a person taking prescription drugs to treat their condition may also get physical therapy, acupuncture, or massage.3
Below are some of the most common alternative and complementary treatments for people living with PsA.
What you put into your body can have a huge effect on your overall health. Diet is critical when managing inflammation and symptoms linked with PsA and psoriasis.2
Certain foods, like meat and coffee, can trigger PsA symptoms. These foods cause inflammation in the body. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to help lessen symptoms. The Mediterranean diet is one example of an anti-inflammatory diet. It focuses on vegetables, fruits, fish, and whole grains.2
Mind-body practices can help improve mental and emotional well-being in people with PsA. These practices include:1-3
- Tai chi
In one study, people doing light therapy and mindfulness meditation saw their psoriasis symptoms improve faster than people getting only light therapy.1,2
Yoga and tai chi are gentle moving practices. They are great for stress reduction and improving the range of motion of the joints. They are safe, restorative treatment options. They can also help you regain flexibility and mobility.1,2
Massage uses physical touch to press, rub, or manipulate the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage is used to help with a variety of health conditions.2
Massage has many health benefits, including reducing:2
- Muscle tension
Many people find that massage also produces feelings of caring, comfort, and connection.2
Acupuncture is an ancient traditional Chinese medicine practice. It is most often used to treat pain.1,2
An acupuncturist uses thin needles inserted into the skin at strategic points on the body. There is no evidence yet to show it is beneficial for PsA. But it has been shown to reduce pain and side effects of psoriasis.1,2
Herbal remedies involve the use of plant and plant extracts. Some herbal remedies are used on the skin. These include:1
- Oregon grape
- Aloe vera
- Tea tree oil
- Neem oil
Other herbs are taken by mouth. These include:1
- Willow bark
- Traditional Chinese herbs
Turmeric has been shown to be great at reducing inflammation in the body. Ginger can help with nausea caused by some PsA medicines. And some studies have shown that Chinese medicine used with medicine and light therapy may be more effective than conventional medical treatment alone.1,2
Herbal supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the way other drugs are. This means no agency confirms the ingredients. For example, a fish oil supplement may have more or less fish oil than listed on the label. A supplement may also contain ingredients that are not labeled correctly or at all. This can be dangerous. It can lead to taking too much or taking unwanted ingredients.
Talk with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
Arthritis jewelry and accessories
Some people with arthritis wear jewelry and accessories that they believe help ease the pain. These include magnetic or copper bracelets. Other people use arthritis gloves, which provide compression and may help reduce the swelling caused by PsA.4
Chronic stress can have many negative effects on your health. Stress weakens the immune system and makes physical ailments worse. Over time, it also can lead to mental health challenges.5
When dealing with a chronic disease like PsA, managing your stress is important because stress can make symptoms worse. Prioritize self-care as much as you can. Try meditation, yoga, journaling, or counseling to process the emotions of living with a chronic disease.3,5
Several research studies have looked at the effects of smoking on people with PsA. A 2019 review found that smoking worsens symptoms of PsA and psoriasis. Smoking also can interfere with some PsA medicines.6
If you have PsA, do not smoke. And if you do smoke, take the steps to quit. If you are interested in quitting smoking, talk to your doctor about programs and resources that can help you.6