09/01/2013 12:35 GMT | Updated 11/03/2013 05:12 GMT

New Report on Complementary Therapies for Arthritis reveals lack of scientific evidence

It's been estimated that over £450m is spent on complementary therapies in Britain each year and approximately one quarter of the UK population uses complementary or alternative therapies in one form or another. Evidence also suggests that their use is higher among people with pain or musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis.

But how just effective are they for treating arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions?

Ten million people in the UK - that's one in six - are affected by arthritis, and as part of our work aiming to help keep people active Arthritis Research UK has commissioned an evidence-based report looking at this very question.

The report used results from randomised clinical trials to assess the effectiveness and safety of complementary therapies commonly used to treat the two most common forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as low back pain and the chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder fibromyalgia.

It revealed that many of the therapies have not been subjected to a clinical trial or may have only been tested in a single study. The findings present a mixed picture, with some therapies being effective, but not for all conditions.

Further to this, very little evidence was found in support of commonly-used therapies such as copper and magnetic therapy.

The therapies that were shown to be the most effective are:

• Acupuncture for osteoarthritis, low back pain and fibromyalgia

• Massage for fibromyalgia and low back pain

• Tai chi for osteoarthritis

• Yoga for back pain

Patients largely choose and pay for complementary therapies themselves and the relationship between patient and practitioner seems to be crucial in the effectiveness of the treatment.

We hope this report will provide patients and healthcare professionals with clear, scientific evidence about the safety and effectiveness of complementary therapies so they can make informed decisions about treatments they may wish to try.

The report PDF is available in full to download here at