Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which your immune system begins attacking the tissues in your body. The disease can be debilitating and cause permanent disability. The lining around the joints is attacked by the immune system in people who have RA, which can lead to painful inflammation around the joints, deterioration, and joint deformity over time.

Mayo Clinic reports that RA may have multiple symptoms, including the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen, painful joints
  • Stiffness that is worse after inactivity and in the morning

If you are diagnosed with RA, it is important for you to follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations to help slow its progression and potentially help it to go into remission. In addition to taking the medications that your doctor prescribes, there are several complementary, natural treatments that you might also want to try to help to alleviate the severity of your symptoms.

Here are some natural treatments that John Hopkins Arthritis Center reports have been demonstrated to be effective alternative treatments for RA.

1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine in which tiny needles are inserted at specific points to relieve pain and inflammation. While there have not been a large number of studies about its effectiveness with RA symptoms, a literature review that was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that patients in at least one study showed improvements in joint pain 24 hours after receiving electroacupuncture, which involves delivering electricity through the needles. The authors indicated that more research is needed because of the limited size of the sample group. However, acupuncture may be an alternative treatment that might help you to feel less pain and to experience less inflammation.

2. T’ai Chi

T’ai chi is a gentle form of martial art that uses slow, smooth movements. It is easy on your joints and may help you to improve flexibility. While studies are limited about its effectiveness with treating RA, a review of five studies that was published in the journal Rheumatology found that t’ai chi helped to improve the vitality, mood, and measures of disability for people who had rheumatoid arthritis. T’ai chi did not show measurable improvements in pain, however, and the authors indicated that additional research is needed.

3. Yoga

Yoga has been shown to help to improve strength, mood, pain, and flexibility in people who have RA, according to a 2012 review of literature that was reported in the Journal of Sports Medicine. Yoga is a system that includes exercises, meditation, and deep breathing techniques that dates back more than 5,000 years ago in India. There are many yoga classes available around the U.S., making it an accessible alternative treatment for people in most locations throughout the country.

4. Magnets

Magnets may be helpful in reducing the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. People may wear the magnets as bracelets, necklaces, inserts, or discs. The magnets may be purchased at most natural foods stores.

One study that was reported in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that RA patients who were treated with magnets showed significantly reduced levels of pain as compared to patients who did not receive the magnet therapy. Like other natural remedies, the researchers indicated that more research is needed to determine the actual efficacy of magnet therapy for RA. While the underlying mechanism is not understood, wearing a magnetic bracelet or necklace might provide you with some relief.

5. Applications of Heat and Cold

Applying heat and cold to painful joints and muscles has long been used in physical therapy and chiropractic care. To help lessen the tender swelling that may be associated with joint inflammation, try applying ice packs to the area for around 15 minutes. Take a break of around 30 minutes between applying the ice packs to the area affected by the RA flare-up.

Heat applications may help to relax stiff and sore muscles. You can try taking a warm shower or relaxing in a warm bath. You can also apply heat pads or packs to the stiff area. If you choose to heat a pack in the microwave, make certain that it is not so hot that it will burn your skin. Heat can be applied in 15-minute intervals with breaks in between applications just like cold applications.

6. Special Diets

Some people who have RA have reported improvements in their symptoms and overall health by watching their diets. Eating a healthy diet that includes green, leafy vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil may provide some benefits. People may also want to avoid saturated and trans fats and avoid eating foods that are high in refined carbohydrates. People may also derive benefits by taking supplements such as fish oil, chondroitin, glucosamine, and turmeric.

Before you make any changes to your diet or start taking supplements, you should talk to your doctor to make certain that your supplements and diet will not interfere with the medical treatments that you might be prescribed.

If you have symptoms that make you believe that you might have rheumatoid arthritis, it is important that you see your doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis. If you catch RA early, it is possible that you might be able to slow the progression of the disease and possibly experience remission. You should make certain to follow your doctor’s recommendations, and you might also want to incorporate some of these alternative treatments for additional relief of your symptoms.