A Holistic Approach to RA Treatment Could Bring Better Relief


Mind/Body Practices

Mind-body practices can help you address RA pain, stress and sleep issues.

Mediation is the practice of focused awareness where you intentionally focus your attention and keep that attention. The main goal is mindfulness — a state of awareness.

Mindfulness promotes relaxation to reduce pain, supports healthy behaviors, and increases spiritual insight. The ability to calm your body may result in fewer inflammatory hormones which equals less joint pain.

Other mind-body practices you can try are yoga, tai chi, spiritual belief and hypnosis. Any and all of these practices can help you manage your emotional, mental, social, and behavioral struggles of living with RA.

Exercise

You should get plenty of exercise to help you cope with RA. Exercise will help ease joint pain and stiffness, make you more flexible, boost your muscle endurance, give you energy, and improve your sleep.

Your exercise program should include range of motion exercises, strength training, and aerobic exercises.

Range of motion exercises, generally part of physical therapy, address specific joints and help if you have been inactive in the past, have restricted joint and muscle motion and if you are recovering from joint surgery.

Strength training will help you improve muscle strength and function. Strong muscles provide better joint support and reduce stress on your joints.

Aerobic exercises improve heart, lung and muscle functions, and help with weight control, mood and sleep. Safe aerobic exercises you can try include walking, dance, swimming, biking, or using exercise equipment, such as treadmills and stationary bikes.

Your daily tasks and leisure activities can count towards aerobic exercises if carried out at moderate strength levels. Examples are playing golf, walking the dog, or doing yard work.

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Diet

The connection between RA and diet is quite complex, but diet does influence your RA symptoms. A diet of anti-inflammatory foods can decrease your symptoms, whereas a diet filled with junk and processed foods can promote inflammation and worsen pain.

Gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, and Mediterranean diets have been helpful to RA patients.

Gluten is found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It is possible your joint pain, stiffness, and swelling is related to gluten sensitivity and eliminating these foods may improve symptoms.

An anti-inflammatory diet promotes certain foods to minimize inflammation, including more plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lean meats and low-fat dairy would be a one-third of your diet and you should avoid processed and junk foods, and excessive carbohydrates.

Last, get more omega-3 foods, such as fatty fish and certain types of oils, and foods high in antioxidants, such as beans.

The Mediterranean diet is high in foods considered anti-inflammatory. Like the anti-inflammatory diet, it consists of mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, and fatty fish.

While there has been little scientific evidence to support that specific foods help RA, you can still manage RA symptoms by eating more good foods and removing bad ones from your diet. You should talk to your doctor about changing your overall diet to a healthy rheumatoid arthritis diet.

Complementary Therapies Are Generally Safe

There is not enough evidence to prove complementary therapies work for RA and there is always safety concerns. But, for the most part, most complementary therapies are safe and could help you to manage your symptoms and pain.

Just be sure to discuss the ones you would like to try with your doctor.

Resources

Wolters Kluwer (Patient education: Complementary and alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis (Beyond the Basics))

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (n−3 Fatty acid supplements in rheumatoid arthritis)

National Institutes of Health (Estimation of vitamin D levels in rheumatoid arthritis patients and its correlation with the disease activity)

National Institutes of Health (A pilot study of acupuncture as adjunctive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis)

National Institutes of Health (Rheumatoid arthritis in upper limbs benefits from moderate pressure massage therapy)

American Chiropractic Association (Don’t Take arthritis Lying Down)

Johns Hopkins Medicine (Electromagnetic Therapy)

Arthritis Foundation (Anti-inflammatory Diet)

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