• arthritis;
  • complementary and alternative medicine;
  • efficacy;
  • nursing;
  • patients;
  • Turkey

Aims and objectives.  The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use in patients with arthritis, the types of complementary and alternative medicine used, pertinent socio-demographic factors associated with complementary and alternative medicine use and its perceived efficacy.

Background.  Arthritis is a major health issue, and the use of complementary and alternative medicine among patients with arthritis is common.

Design.  This is a descriptive cross-sectional study.

Methods.  Data were obtained from 250 patients with arthritis at the physiotherapy and immunology clinics Atatürk University Hospital in eastern Turkey between May–July 2005 using a questionnaire developed specifically for this study. The instrument included questions on socio-demographic information, disease specifics and complementary and alternative medicine usage.

Results.  Seventy-six per cent of participants reported use of at least one form of complementary and alternative medicine in the previous year. Complementary and alternative medicine users and non-users were not significantly different in most socio-demographic characteristics including age, gender, marital status and education level with the exception of economic status. We categorised treatment into six complementary and alternative medicine categories: 62·6% of patients used thermal therapies; 41·5% used oral herbal therapies; 40·5% used hot therapies; 32·6% used externally applied (skin) therapies; 28·4% used massage and 12·6% used cold therapies. All forms of complementary and alternative medicine except thermal and oral herbal therapies were perceived as very effective by more than half of study participants.

Conclusions.  Complementary and alternative medicine therapy is widely used by patients with arthritis and has perceived beneficial effects.

Relevance to clinical practice.  It is important for nurses and other health care professionals to be knowledgeable about the use of complementary and alternative medicine therapies when providing care to patients with arthritis because of possible interactions with other treatments, delays in seeking care and the potential for poor quality products. It is also essential for health professionals to discuss treatment options with patients and to monitor treatment efficacy.