Objective. To understand arthritis patients' use of unconventional therapies (UT).
Methods. Thirty-three rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients followed in university clinics participated in 5 focus groups to discuss: their beliefs about arthritis and UT; UT they have used; reasons for using UT; effectiveness of UT; sources of information on UT; and communication about UT with the physician. Two investigators analyzed focus group transcripts to identify common themes.
Results. All patients believed arthritis to be incurable by conventional regimens or UT. Over one-half had used UT to relieve pain; cost was unimportant. Patients trusted information about UT from family, friends, and others with arthritis, but not supermarket tabloids or television commercials. Most discussed UT use with their physician, primarily to prevent interactions with prescribed treatments. Physicians' reactions ranged from ridicule to giving permission to continue using UT.
Conclusions. These results provide an understanding of arthritis patients' motives for using UT and for discussing this behavior with their physician.