Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease. When you have RA, your immune system targets the tissues that line your joints, leading to pain and mobility issues.
It’s a chronic condition that can worsen as time passes. However, it does respond well to lifestyle changes and other types of therapies. If you’d like to find natural remedies to help you manage the pain that RA causes, read on to learn more about the most effective options.
Exercise: Easing Pain with Movement
It can be tough to think about moving and being active when you’re dealing with RA pain, but exercise can help. In particular, exercise can reduce your chances of muscle wasting, which is a concern for those with RA. Muscle wasting can in turn worsen fatigue, leading to a cycle of inactivity that only exacerbates the symptoms of the condition.
Strengthening your muscles can help diminish pain by making them better able to support your joints. This helps improve flexibility and joint movement. Regular physical activity can also keep the cartilage in your joints lubricated, reducing stiffness and pain.
You don’t have to go for strenuous exercise to get the benefits you want. Consider beginning with easier stretching exercises and progressing to more intensive options as you get stronger. You can also try balancing exercises to help prevent falls, as well as swimming or walking to keep your heart healthy.
Acupuncture: Trying Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture has been in practice for thousands of years, making it one of the oldest forms of pain relief. It uses long and very thin needles to stimulate energy along your body using what are called meridian points. Acupuncture is based on the belief that your body needs to have a balanced qi (energy) to function at its best, and that’s what the needles help you achieve.
For those with RA, acupuncture appears to:
- Lower various chemicals in the body that lead to inflammation
- Ease emotional issues the disease can cause, such as depression and anxiety
- Increase blood flow to the treatment areas, bringing more nutrients and oxygen
In turn, those extra nutrients and oxygen help make cartilage and other tissues healthier and stronger.
Heat and Cold: Alternating Temperatures for Relief
Heat and cold are both helpful in easing the pain that RA can cause. Heat can increase blood flow to the treatment area, helping to relax muscles while easing joint pain. It is often particularly helpful to use heat in the morning, right before you start your daily activities.
You can choose for your heat therapy to be moist or dry. Some options include:
- Heat pads
- Dry saunas
- Steam saunas
- Warm and damp compresses
- Hot shower or bath
- A hot wax (paraffin) bath if you have pain in your hands or feet
You always want to ensure that neither the baths nor compresses are too hot since you don’t want to damage your skin.
Cold therapy is also helpful, especially when dealing with acute pain and flare-ups. This therapy can constrict blood flow to the joints, which helps reduce inflammation while also slowing down the pain signals your joints send to your brain. It can reduce the accumulation of fluids in the joints as well.
Cold therapy is simple; there are many cold packs available, or you can make your own. Limit cold therapy to about 20 minutes a few times a day.
Turmeric: Adding the Spice to Your Diet
Turmeric is a spice belonging to the ginger family. It’s originally from Indonesia and India and features prominently in traditional medicine from those regions.
The curcumin in the spice can block proteins that cause inflammation and can work as well as NSAIDs at easing pain. Curcumin is able to help ease symptoms of immune diseases like RA as well as inflammatory bowel disease. It can help decrease morning stiffness and joint swelling.
If you’d like to try turmeric for RA, you can find it in supplements, teas, and the spice itself.
Capsaicin Gels and Creams: Harnessing the Chili Pepper’s Heat
Gels and creams made from capsaicin — the reason chili peppers are hot — can also help relieve RA pain.
When you apply it to your skin, this chemical creates a tingling or mild burning sensation. It works by reducing substance P, which plays a role in sending pain signals to the brain. This substance is also involved in activating inflammatory reactions in your joints.
Don’t use capsaicin substances with heat pads since doing so can increase the burning sensation to a painful level. Instead, you should use these gels by applying them to the affected area two to three times a day.
Deep Breathing: Achieving Relaxation Through Breath
When you start taking deep and steady breaths, it triggers a relaxation response throughout your body that not only relaxes your muscles but also deactivates your stress receptors. As you breathe deeply, you’re also getting more oxygen into your muscles, helping with relaxation.
One way to do deep breathing is to take a slow and steady breath through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Doing a few of these throughout the day can make a difference.
Massage Therapy: Easing Pain Out of the Muscles
Massage therapy has the potential to relieve stress and release the tension that RA can cause. It can improve circulation, allowing more oxygen to flow throughout your body and helping to reduce inflammation. Having less tension in your muscles encourages you to stay active, which can help alleviate RA symptoms.
With the many types of massage therapies out there, you can choose the one that you feel most comfortable with. If you have any skin irritations or find that certain essential oils make your RA symptoms worse, let the massage therapist know so they can avoid them.
Regenerative Medicine: Using Stem Cells
Stem cell therapy is an alternative option involving stem cells to repair, replace, or regenerate damaged cells and tissues in the body.
It involves using stem cells, often derived from the patient’s own body (autologous stem cells) to reduce inflammation, improve joint function, and help repair tissue damage associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Getting Help for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex condition. However, by turning to medications as well as natural remedies, you can get the relief you need. You don’t have to go through daily discomfort when there are options available.