Treating lupus

Can I treat lupus with complementary and alternative medicines?

In addition to medications and other medical care from doctors, a large and growing number of people turn to other healing practices to try to improve their health. These diverse therapies -- used either with conventional medicine (complementary) or instead of conventional medicine (alternative) -- include homeopathy, chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine (such as acupuncture and Tai Chi), Ayurveda, naturopathy, massage therapy, meditation, biofeedback, herbs or other supplements, and more. Most alternative and complementary practices, however, have not been through the rigorous scientific testing and clinical research that all conventional medicines undergo, so it is difficult to know their effectiveness in treating lupus.

In fact, some herbal supplements can make a person’s lupus symptoms worse, or interact in a harmful way with the medicines a doctor has prescribed. Therefore, before beginning any complementary or alternative therapy,  it is very important for people with lupus to discuss these practices with their doctor (especially if planning to use herbs or supplements). Additionally, it is important to continue taking the lupus medications prescribed. Lupus is a complex disease and no one with lupus should rely on complementary or alternative practices instead of the medication they have been prescribed.

There is some evidence that acupuncture can provide relief from arthritis pain, and that meditation and biofeedback techniques can offer relief from stress and help with pain management.  To learn more about scientific research regarding specific types of complementary and alternative medicine, you may visit the website of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. However, for people with lupus it is always important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new therapies, including those in the complementary and alternative medicine category.

Medically reviewed on June 20, 2013

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