Homeopathy for Arthritis

Founded by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (Germany) in 1790s homeopathy has significant presence in India. Arthritis stands 9th amongst 10 most common conditions treated by homeopaths.

Homeopathy believes that disease is intimately associated with life of an individual and is a result of internal concealed causes. Illness occurs only when resistance within the body is disturbed. The entire individual person rather than organ systems needs to be treated for an effective cure. Effects of drugs on various healthy individuals (Proving) are recorded in Materia-Medica (Repertory). A patient is assessed on the basis of all symptoms including psychological and matched with similar picture in Materia-Medica. Finding the right remedy is a challenge to the practitioner. Drugs used in small doses (dilution) are believed to stimulate self healing and regulatory processes. These drugs work on the principle of ‘like cures like’. The goal is to provoke vital force within the body so that it will elevate body systems to a higher level and eliminate disease. Therapy thus differs amongst patients of same conventional diagnosis in classical homeopathy. ‘Classical’ homeopathy involves a detailed history and use of a single remedy whereas ‘clinical’ homeopathy uses drug combinations.  Avoidance of ‘antidotes’ such as coffee, mint, camphor, acupuncture, etc. is also important. Concurrent use of modern drugs is usually discouraged on the basis of antidoting.

Remedies prescribed for a particular ailment without detailed assessment of individual patient is called as ‘nonclassical’ homeopathy. Combination drugs are also available for ailments such as arthritis pain. Bryonia, Apis, Pustallia, Rhux-tox, Kali-Carb, Colchicum, Ledam Pal and Nat Mur are important drugs used in arthritis.

Although homeopathy claims success in treatment of autoimmune disorders, it is not generally advised in long standing arthritis with damaged cartilage. Clinical studies are difficult due to individualization of treatment in classical homeopathy and challenges in selection of drugs for an individual patient. Clinical research in Homeopathy is of low quality and hence unreliable. A double-blind prospective study of classical homeopathy treatment in rheumatoid arthritis showed significant improvement than placebo controls over 3 month period. This period is too short for a chronic disabling disease like rheumatoid arthritis. A recently published study has shown that clinical benefit in rheumatoid arthritis is due to consultation process and not due to drug effect. Reduction in tender points and improved relief of pain were noted in a study of fibromyalgia- a disease which has significant psychological component. A meta-analysis of 4 studies (406 patients) on use of homeopathy in osteoarthritis did not show any significant benefit.

Homeopathic therapy does not seem to have any significant side effects. The problem arises when patients start believing in some medicine which is not really effective. Prescribing a placebo (inert pill) without an informed consent from the patient is against medical ethics. No treatment should be continued beyond a certain period (say 3-6 months) if objective benefits are not evident.