Conditions > Rheumatoid arthritis

Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Relief

Quick Summary

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects your joints. There is currently no known cure for RA.

  • There is no definitive test for rheumatoid arthritis so an accurate diagnosis can be tricky.

  • There are natural treatments that can relieve joint pain and reduce overall levels of inflammation in the body.


Quick Jump Menu


What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects your joints. More accurately, it affects the soft tissue that surrounds your joints. Your body’s own immune system attacks the soft tissue surrounding your joints, resulting in chronic joint inflammation.

This soft tissue is known as the synovial membrane, or synovium. If left untreated, this chronic inflammation of the synovium can result in joint deformity.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects joints on both sides of the body. So, if one joint is experiencing chronic inflammation of the synovium, so will its counterpart on the other side of the body.

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What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis continues to be a bit of a medical mystery. We don’t really understand why it occurs. Currently, no known cure exists.
 

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when something in your body triggers the body's immune system to attack the surrounding tissues of the joints, which leads painful irritation, swelling, and, over time, weakening of the bone and deformity of the joint.

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Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

If you’ve been diagnosed with RA, you may experience flare-ups. These flares occur when something triggers your body to have an inflammatory response. During these flares, symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be a combination of the following:
 

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Warm or hot joints

  • Painful and stiff joints

  • Morning stiffness

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Osteoarthritis vs. rheumatoid arthritis

One way to distinguish between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is the amount of time it takes for joint stiffness to dissipate in the morning.

A joint with rheumatoid arthritis takes between 45 minutes and an hour to become mobile and pain-free. Upon waking, the RA joint will typically be noticeably painful and stiff.

To compare this with a joint that has osteoarthritis, it might take between 10 and 30 minutes for it to become mobile and pain-free.

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Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis

There is no definitive test for rheumatoid arthritis so an accurate diagnosis can be tricky.
 

Current diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis involves an exam of your joints to assess mobility and inflammation. If swelling and inflammation of the joint lasts more than six weeks, it may be an indication that a chronic inflammation of the synovium is present.
 

Typically, your physician will order a blood test to test for a positive rheumatoid factor (RF). However, there are instances of people with rheumatoid arthritis who do not test positive for the rheumatoid factor, and instances of people with a positive rheumatoid factor who do not have rheumatoid arthritis.

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Rheumatoid arthritis treatment

Because rheumatoid arthritis can be such a destructive disease, I recommend you meet with your physician to guide you in selecting the treatment that will best suit your particular case of RA.

As much as I try to treat all of my patients naturally, with rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes you will require medications in order to avoid some very serious and permanent effects.
 

However, there are natural treatments that can relieve joint pain and reduce overall levels of inflammation in the body. These include:

  • Diet changes

  • Gentle exercises (like tai chi)

  • Low-level laser therapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Osteopathic manipulation


 

Rheumatoid arthritis diet

There’s a lot of evidence that suggests diet can play an important role in the management of rheumatoid arthritis.

There are certain foods that can exacerbate the overall level of inflammation in your body. By removing these from your diet, it’s possible you reduce the severity of the RA flares when they do occur.

Examples of foods that can make RA worse include:

  • Red meat

  • Foods containing refined flour

  • Foods containing gluten

  • Processed foods


Many of my RA patients experience less severe symptoms by staying on a plant-based diet.
By eating almost exclusively fruits and vegetables, you lower inflammation and allow your body to move towards remission, where your rheumatoid arthritis is inactive.


Gentle exercises (Tai chi) for rheumatoid arthritis

Gentle exercises and stretching is another way to maintain joint mobility and reduce inflammation and pain in joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

Tai chi, which is a series of gentle, stretchy movements, is one form of exercise that is safe for RA patients and can help with overall physical functioning, reduced depression, and an improved quality of life.

Although tai chi alone is not enough to manage your RA, it can serve as a complementary treatment. If you are considering tai chi, I strongly recommend you seek out a local tai chi class in your neighborhood rather than exercising at home.


Low-level laser therapy for rheumatoid arthritis

Gentle exercise can also be combined with low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to reduce RA joint pain and increase joint function.

Low-level laser therapy is a natural treatment that can mimic the effects of a pain-reducing drug.
 

Although there is still little evidence that explains how LLLT works to reduce chronic joint pain, there is enough evidence to make this treatment worth considering for pain relief from rheumatoid arthritis.


Acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis

Acupuncture can be another supplementary treatment for managing your rheumatoid arthritis. Acupuncture therapy helps stimulate blood flow to the joint and assist in the body's inflammatory process. It can also reduce pain by modulating pain receptors of the brain.


Osteopathic manipulation for rheumatoid arthritis

Osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMT), also known as manual manipulation treatments, can help you manage your rheumatoid arthritis pain.

As your joints become stiff and achy, the gentle, hands-on manipulation offered by osteopathic manipulation offers a natural way to relieve pain and increase joint mobility. Many RA sufferers rely on NSAIDs for pain relief. I would recommend trying OMT as natural alternative to these pain medications. 


Next steps

If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, I recommend you see a rheumatologist or physician who will evaluate your joints and the progression of the disease. The sooner you can diagnose RA, the more likely you are to prevent long-term joint damage and deformity.
 

To treat your rheumatoid arthritis using natural and holistic treatments, I encourage you to find a physician who will perform a complete exam and help you manage your RA without medications except when absolutely necessary. And remember, with a chronic inflammatory disease like RA, sometimes it is necessary to take medication in order to prevent joint damage.


References

 

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