AIM: This paper is a report of a study to explicate the phenomenon of ginger compresses for people with osteoarthritis. BACKGROUND: osteoarthritis is claimed to be the leading cause of musculoskeletal pain and disability in Western society. Management ideally combines non-pharmacological strategies, including complementary therapies and pain-relieving medication. Ginger has been applied externally for over a thousand years in China to manage arthritis symptoms. METHOD: Husserlian phenomenological methodology was used and the data were collected in 2007. Ten purposively selected adults who had suffered osteoarthritis for at least a year kept daily diaries and made drawings, and follow-up interviews and telephone conversations were conducted. FINDINGS: Seven themes were identified in the data: (1) Meditative-like stillness and relaxation of thoughts; (2) Constant penetrating warmth throughout the body; (3) Positive change in outlook; (4) Increased energy and interest in the world; (5) Deeply relaxed state that progressed to a gradual shift in pain and increased interest in others; (6) Increased suppleness within the body and (7) More comfortable, flexible joint mobility. The essential experience of ginger compresses exposed the unique qualities of heat, stimulation, anti-inflammation and analgesia. CONCLUSION: Nurses could consider this therapy as part of a holistic treatment for people with osteoarthritis symptoms. Controlled research is needed with larger numbers of older people to explore further the effects of the ginger compress therapy.
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