Osteoarthritis patients: high private benefits - benefits are often unclear

Osteoarthritis patients: high private benefits - benefits are often unclear

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Many osteoarthritis patients reach deep into their own pockets for their treatment

According to experts, osteoarthritis is the most common of all joint diseases. So far there is no disease-specific treatment. But there are some things that help those affected. However, many patients invest a lot of money in treatments whose benefits are often not clear.

According to the German Arthrosis Aid, arthrosis is the most common joint disease. The hands, knees and hips are usually affected. Around five million people in Germany suffer from complaints caused by osteoarthritis, with an upward trend. Many of them invest a lot of money in private services that do nothing.

Services often have no benefit

As the health insurance company Barmer wrote in a message, two out of five osteoarthritis patients dig deep into their own pockets for their treatment. You buy so-called individual health services (IGeL), the benefits of which are often unclear or do not appear at all.

This is confirmed by a study by scientists from the universities in Oldenburg and Dresden, the Charité and the German Rheumatism Research Center in Berlin as well as the Barmer.

According to this, 39 percent of the 2,363 insured persons with osteoarthritis between 30 and 79 years of age surveyed privately financed IGeL within one year, for example syringes. And two thirds of the respondents hoped to alleviate their suffering through offers outside the doctor's office.

According to the health insurance company, 49 percent of IGeL users stated that their complaints had improved.

More than 300 euros per year for private services

“Regardless of which joint you suffer from osteoarthritis, in the best case it can be stopped, not cured. Those affected therefore seek help outside of conventional medicine. However, they cannot be sure that their pain will be relieved and joints will become more flexible, ”says Dr. Ursula Marschall, chief medical officer at Barmer.

The effort for this is considerable. A third of those surveyed spent over 300 euros on IGeL and Co. within one year. It is all the more important to decide in peace and well informed for or against privately financed health services. The most important thing is always a personal benefit.

Questions about alternatives beyond conventional medicine

IGeL is the most frequently used with 45 percent of knee osteoarthritis. According to co-author Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter Günther, medical director of the clinic and polyclinic for orthopedics at the University Hospital Dresden, is mainly due to the suffering. This is particularly high for knee osteoarthritis, since it can be extremely painful.

This challenges the doctors in their role as counselors even more because it also includes warning against false expectations at an IGeL. Orthopaedists and family doctors in particular would often be asked about alternatives beyond conventional medicine.

"Doctors should provide detailed information about the risks and side effects of IGeL and work out the personal benefits for the patient," said Günther.

What can help those affected

Osteoarthritis has not yet been cured. A large number of treatments are available to alleviate the symptoms, but only a few therapies have been proven by meaningful studies that they can slow the progression of osteoarthritis or alleviate the symptoms, explains the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) on the portal "".

Depending on the joint, effective treatment measures include movement therapy or rehabilitation sports as well as pain relievers. If you are overweight, weight loss is recommended, especially if you have knee or hip arthrosis. And in the case of osteoarthritis of the fingers or wrists, occupational therapy can convey how to avoid stressful movements or how to perform them in a way that is gentle on the joints.

In addition, the joints can be relieved by aids such as walking sticks (for knee and hip arthrosis) and special pens, gripping and opening aids for glasses and bottles (for finger arthrosis). Stabilizing rails are also used in some cases.

Although many affected people report positive experiences with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment options, as well as procedures such as acupuncture, cupping or Qi Gong, it is usually not proven that they work for people with osteoarthritis.

According to the IQWiG, this also applies to joint mirroring (arthroscopy), herbal medicines, food supplements, syringes with hyaluronic acid, ultrasound therapies and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

If a knee or hip arthrosis is very advanced, the worn joint surfaces can be replaced in whole or in part by an artificial joint, a so-called endoprosthesis. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Barmer: Osteoarthritis drives patients to private services, (accessed: January 6, 2020), Barmer
  • Deutsche Arthrose-Hilfe: How common is arthrosis ?, (accessed: January 6, 2020), Deutsche Arthrose-Hilfe
  • Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG): Osteoarthritis: Treatment, (accessed: January 6, 2020),

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