Whole Person Health: Complementary Health

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People living with chronic conditions have health management needs beyond their primary treatment that are not being met. This four-part series examines the behaviors and attitudes of chronic condition communities to determine approaches that can help them better manage their health — holistically, for their entire selves.


Health management for those with chronic conditions is complex. It requires a 360-degree treatment approach that goes beyond prescription medications and toward a holistic approach to care. In order to address pain and discomfort, those living with chronic conditions frequently call on complementary options to enhance their primary medication.

In fact, those living with chronic conditions crave information about alternative products, practices, and services. They commonly share information with one another on social media and in support groups. But it’s crucial that they also speak to their healthcare providers about the supplementary and complementary directions they pursue. With appropriate monitoring from specialists, people living with chronic conditions can better understand how their bodies respond to each element of complementary care that they implement.

It’s important to note that these methods are not in place of medication, but in addition to it. Pain and discomfort are common symptoms even when people living with chronic conditions are taking and adhering to prescribed medications. It’s therefore paramount that both those living with chronic conditions and their care teams commit to ongoing conversation about balancing complementary care.

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Pain relief is a top concern

Recent data (2019–20) from proprietary Healthline Media research shows that those living with chronic conditions see their prescription pain medications as effective but often lacking. For example, more than half of patients living with arthritis who experience daily mild to severe joint pain say they supplement their prescription medications with over-the-counter pain relievers:

  • 51% of those with psoriatic arthritis 

  • 54% of those with rheumatoid arthritis 

This common scenario may be due to fear that prescription pain medications might have the potential for dependence or otherwise shorten their lives. One Healthline Media reader living with psoriatic arthritis says: 

“I take plain old extra strength Excedrin. Not every day, but I am not taking pain medicine that takes 10 to 15 years off my life. So I just live with the pain.”

Indeed, many people living with chronic pain will endure it to avoid what they see as a potential risk to their lives. This presents an opportunity for medical providers to give those living with chronic conditions more and better information regarding their pain management options. Both primary care physicians and specialists need to know all medications and other therapies that their patients are taking so they can be aware of possible negative interactions as well as opportunities to introduce additional recommendations. 

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CBD is a hot topic

From pain relief to stress reduction, CBD products (oils, lotions, edibles) have made a notable impact on how people are managing their chronic conditions. According to proprietary Healthline Media research:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Psoriasis

Psoriatic Arthritis

17%

10%

20%

Medical providers are also recognizing the surge in CBD interest, including rheumatologists, pulmonologists, and even dermatologists: “CBD is the hottest new fad in skin care,” says a dermatologist in the Healthline Media Medical Affairs Network. “The majority of people are now looking for a natural or holistic approach to treating psoriasis, including reducing stress, changing their diet, etc. Many are exploring these options alongside their systemic medications or instead of prescription topicals.”

And according to Healthline Media’s resident pulmonologist, people living with COPD have asked whether CBD can help with their breathing.

It’s clear that people with chronic conditions need more guidance not only on how CBD can improve their quality of life, but also how it can interact with their condition and their primary treatment.

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Additional methods of treatment

Healthline Media proprietary research from 2019 to 2020 shows that people with chronic conditions regularly seek out new supplementary and complementary treatments in an effort to help manage their symptoms. These include: 

Habits and practices they implement to help them manage their condition:

Exercise and fitness

Meditation

Sleep

51% of those with rheumatoid arthritis exercise.

16% of those with psoriatic arthritis engage in this practice.

“An essential part of COPD management”  —Healthline Media Medical Affairs Network pulmonologist

They also use various products that have the potential to help them in their day-to-day lives:

UVB lamps

Essential oils

Hot or cold compresses

Apple cider vinegar

Vitamins and supplements

40%+ search increase for “UVB lamps for psoriasis” year over year

“I’ve never heard of essential oils helping my psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.” — Healthline Media reader living with psoriatic arthritis

37% of those with psoriatic arthritis use these to help them manage their condition.

Healthline Media readers with IBD swear by this product.

35% of those with psoriasis say they are also taking these in addition to their primary condition treatment.

Out-of-home services have also proven beneficial for chronic condition communities: 

Massage therapy

Occupational therapy

Acupuncture

15% of the psoriatic arthritis community engages in this to help them manage their condition.

13% of those with psoriatic arthritis engage in this practice to manage their condition.

“I’ve been using acupuncture for many years instead of pain meds.” — Healthline Media reader living with Crohn’s disease

Let’s talk

It’s clear that even those taking prescribed medications are pursuing complementary therapies, practices, products, and services that can provide them with additional relief from pain and discomfort. 

As they engage in online communities such as social media platforms or condition-specific apps, it’s crucial that they have ongoing conversations with their medical providers and specialists about such therapies. 

Healthline Media considers the whole person with content that is science-backed and fact-based. Our articles, videos, and other content shed light on all the ways that those with chronic conditions can supplement and complement their health practices.

If you’re interested in deeper analysis of mental health and its relationship with chronic conditions, reach out to your Healthline Media representative or email us to find out how we can provide custom solutions for your brand.

Explore other topics in whole person health:

DIET & NUTRITION

MENTAL HEALTH

FINANCIAL WELLNESS

Sources: 2019 Healthline Media Planning Insights Lab data (IBS, UC, CD); 2020 Healthline Media Planning Insights Lab data (HIV, PsO, PsA, COPD, RA)

About Healthline Media

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