Alternative Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Yoga, Massage, and Fish Oil to Help Ease RA Symptoms

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may help you manage chronic pain, joint inflammation, and other rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Although CAM treatments aren’t part of mainstream medicine, many people find that these treatments help them live with RA. The name may be slightly confusing:  Complementary treatments are used with traditional treatments, such as physical therapy, while alternative treatments are used in place of mainstream treatments.  However, they are the same treatments; the “difference” lies in whether you use mainstream treatments at the same time.

It’s important to talk to your doctor before trying any of the complementary and alternative medicine treatments below for rheumatoid arthritis. Some CAM treatments may interact with mainstream treatments, such as medications.

In-depth Articles on Other Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments

Acupuncture for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although very little research has focused exclusively on RA and acupuncture, it may help reduce your RA symptoms.

Acupuncture—an ancient Chinese practice—is rooted in the belief that everyone has an energy force called Chi, or Qi, that flows freely in the body. However, when Chi is blocked, it can create pain and other RA symptoms. To promote a smooth flow of Chi, acupuncturists insert very fine needles to free up Chi channels (meridians) in the body.

Balneotherapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Balneotherapy uses water therapeutically to address your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. With this treatment, you bathe in warm mineral water. Some benefits have been reported, but there’s hasn’t been enough research to prove balneotherapy is effective at treating RA.

Dietary Supplements for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Some dietary supplements may interact with the medications you take, so talk to your doctor before trying them.

  • Boswellia (also known as frankincense) may contain properties that boost the immune system (important because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease) and reduce inflammation.
  • Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can help decrease inflammation in the body.
  • Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound that can help protect joints from inflammation.
  • Ginger may have anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Green tea has substances in it that may be helpful in reducing RA-associated inflammation.

Massage for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although massage is not yet a proven treatment for RA, you may find that it works for you. It can help relieve chronic pain andincrease your range of motion. There are several types of massage. For example, you can try a hot stone massage or a Swedish massage. Talk to your massage therapist about the massage technique that’s right for you.

Mind-Body Therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Biofeedback uses a machine to measure how your body reacts to stress. For instance, it calculates your heart rate and body temperature. This technique teaches you how to manage stress, ultimately easing pain and other rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
  • Meditation teaches you to relax your body and mind by checking in with yourself. It can help you cope with your RA-related pain and other symptoms.
  • Tai chi—sometimes called “moving meditation”—helps you become more aware of your body and mind through slow, gentle movements and deep breathing.
  • Yoga can help reduce pain and relieve stress through a combination of poses, and breathing and mediation exercises.

Additional research is needed to investigate exactly how effective these complementary and alternative medicine treatments are at relieving RA symptoms, but when used in conjunction with mainstream medicine, alternative treatments can help you thrive with rheumatoid arthritis.

Updated on: 11/19/15