5 Natural Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Medically Reviewed by Carolin Schneider, MD
If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may be looking for natural ways to ease your joint pain and other symptoms. It’s important to know that natural treatments can’t replace prescription RA medicines. But there are some things you can do along with your prescribed treatments that may help you feel better. Just make sure to ask your doctor before trying any new treatment.
Learn about five ways to help ease your RA pain at home — so you can stay active and keep doing the things you love to do.
1. Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to maintain your strength, build flexibility and ease joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Follow these tips to stay active when you have RA:
- Try low-impact activities like bicycling and walking — and skip high-impact exercises like running and aerobics that may strain your joints.
- Take your workout to the water. Water aerobics, swimming, and hydrotherapy are all great options for people with RA.
- Ask your doctor about physical therapy. A physical therapist can help treat your joint problems and recommend safe, enjoyable ways for you to stay active.
2. Change Your Eating Routine
Changing your diet may improve some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Well-balanced, nutrient-rich meals are key to managing your condition. Consider these eating tips for RA:
- Try going vegetarian or Mediterranean. Studies have shown that people who switch to a Mediterranean or vegetarian diet may experience less pain, inflammation and stiffness.
- Some medicines may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals — so ask your doctor if you need to take any dietary supplements.
- Some foods may trigger RA symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a brief fast to see if your diet includes foods that trigger pain or other symptoms.
3. Try Mind-Body Therapy
It’s possible that mind-body therapy techniques may help ease RA symptoms like pain, stress and trouble sleeping. But more research is needed to see how effective these techniques are for RA.
If you’d like to try mind-body options, start with simple relaxation methods such as meditation and breathing exercises. You can also try physical activities that promote mindfulness, like yoga and tai chi. Just make sure not to do any poses or movements that put too much stress on your affected joints.
4. Supplement with Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve RA symptoms. Research has shown that taking a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement may improve symptoms such as joint tenderness and morning stiffness. Smaller studies have found possible benefits from other dietary supplements, like turmeric — but more research is needed to see if they’re effective.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also warned that several dietary supplements that promised to relieve arthritis pain actually contain prescription drugs. So it’s very important to ask your doctor before taking any supplements for RA.
5. Mix Up Heat and Ice Therapy
Alternating between hot and cold compresses can effectively relax muscles and joints, ease pain and reduce inflammation. For sudden, painful flare-ups, try using an ice pack or cool cloth on the affected area for 15 minutes to relieve pain and swelling. Use moist heat to relax chronic achy joints and alleviate stiffness — you can try heating pads, damp cloths and warm baths.
Remember that different people with RA may need a different combination of treatments to find relief from their symptoms. So keep working with your doctor and trying all the options until you find what works for you. And always ask your doctor before trying any new treatment.
- “Rheumatoid Arthritis: In Depth” via National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- “Foods That Can Help RA Symptoms” via Arthritis Foundation
- “Role of Natural Products in Alleviation of Rheumatoid Arthritis — a Review” via Journal of Food Biochemistry
- “Natural Products for the Treatment of Autoimmune Arthritis” via International Journal of Molecular Sciences
- “Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Dietary Interventions” via Frontiers in Nutrition
- “Use of Herbal Medications for Treatment of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis” via Medicines (Basel)
- “Benefits and promotion of physical activity in rheumatoid arthritis” via Current Opinion in Rheumatology