Natural Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The best way to manage and treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). While there are no non-medicinal substitutes for DMARDs, some complementary therapies can give you relief from joint stiffness, swelling and pain.
Keep in mind, however, that these therapies do not stop inflammation, joint damage and long-term complications of RA.
Complementary Therapies Defined
Complementary therapies are therapeutic practices used together with conventional medicine. Examples of complementary therapies include acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, meditation, and nutrition.
Research has shown complementary therapies are highly effective for RA and researchers are continually looking for ways to incorporate these with medicinal treatments.
Here is what you need to know about specific complementary therapies to help you manage your RA symptoms.
While supplements are popular for managing RA pain and inflammation, there hasn't been enough scientific research to back up their effectiveness.Two supplements, however, have solid research behind them for being successful in managing RA pain.
Fish oil may reduce your need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), this according to a report out of Albany Medical College. RA patients in several studies who received fish oil supplements, in addition to their DMARDs and NSAIDs, were reporting fewer tender joints and less morning stiffness and their blood work also showed lower inflammation markers.
If you are taking medications that affect clotting, check with your doctor before taking fish oil supplements.
Low vitamin D and RA seem to go together — there has been a lot of evidence that low vitamin D triggers RA development and worsens symptoms in people who already have the condition.
If you think your vitamin D levels are low, ask your doctor to check them and recommend a supplement, if needed. You will need at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Manipulative Body-Based Therapies
Manipulative body-based therapies involve manipulation of one or more body parts to address systematic imbalances of the bones and joints, soft issues and the circulatory system. Practices include acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and electromagnetic therapy.
Acupuncture is an ancient Eastern practice where thin needles are inserted in the skin at specific points in the body to promote energy flow.
A 2008 study found that RA patients were showing improvement in morning stiffness after 10 weeks of acupuncture treatments. However, the results were mixed for improvements in joint swelling or inflammation.
Therapeutic massage may give you pain relief and improve your range of motion and grip, this according to a report published in the May 2013 issue of Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice.
Forty-two adults with RA were randomly assigned moderate pressure or light pressure massage therapy. The therapists massaged affected arms and shoulders for four weeks and taught the participants self-massage.
The study participants reported relief from pain and stiffness, stronger grip, and greater range of motion from the moderate-pressure massage and daily self-message. Participants given the light pressure massage showed improvements in pain and stiffness only.
Electromagnetic therapy uses magnets to manage pain, inflammation and a variety of other health conditions. Research on electromagnetic energy has been mixed and the practice has not been approved by the FDA. However, there has been no evidence of negative complications in using magnet therapy.