Use of complementary therapies by patients with osteoporosis

Complementary therapies can be used alongside conventional drug treatments for osteoporosis. They may help people feel better and cope better but they will not cure osteoporosis. The Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine has a register of practitioners who have provided evidence of their competence to practise. It is always advisable to also discuss with your GP what complementary therapies you would like to use as they can often recommend a local qualified practitioner. Some complementary therapies such as osteopathy or chiropractic, which involves manipulation, are not usually recommended for people with osteoporosis.
Some of the people we interviewed had tried different therapies to help them relax, to reduce their pain and to help with sleeping problems. These included acupuncture, reflexology, herbal medicine, massage, hypnotherapy, Indian head massage, homeopathy and osteopathy.
A few people had tried acupuncture which they said had helped them to relax or to feel better. James had used acupuncture several years ago when he was very unwell and it had managed to restore his energy levels. He now continues to go monthly.
A few people had used herbal medicine. Susan took Valerian to help her sleep. Susannah tried taking St. John’s Wort to help with depression and although she felt less anxious and she slept better, it made her feel ‘very heavy’ so she stopped taking it. A few people had explored herbal medicine in more detail and had spent a lot of time researching the various types. Betty had used complementary therapies for forty years and so she naturally tried them to see if they would help her osteoporosis. She researched herbal medicine carefully and she is careful what she takes. She finds herbs help her to relax.
Some complementary therapies are not advisable for people with osteoporosis, especially therapies which involve manipulation. Osteopathy uses manipulation to restore normal action to the body and to reduce pain. Osteopathy or Chiropractic are not usually recommended for people with osteoporosis, but if they are used they should always be used in discussion with the GP and carried out by a qualified practitioner.
The cost prevented some people from using complementary therapies more often than they would like. Complementary therapies are not always available on the NHS and people often need to pay for them. However in some areas certain complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, are becoming increasingly available in GP practices. Betty was concerned about the provision of acupuncture when she moved to a new area. Previously it had been available in the GP practice on the NHS but where she moved to she had to pay for it herself. Betty has acupuncture once a fortnight but when she has a bad spell she would like to go every week but the cost prevents her.
Some people had not used complementary therapies because they thought they would not help their osteoporosis and they preferred to use conventional medicine.

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Last reviewed June 2017.


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