What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term disorder that progressively affects many parts of the body. Typically, joints, skin, eyes, heart, lungs and blood vessels are more commonly involved. It is an autoimmune disorder. In this condition, the body’s white blood cells attack its own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, leading to local damage, pain and swelling that eventually causes bone erosion and joint deformities. Rheumatoid arthritis damages the other parts of the body as well. It is a chronic disease where patients suffer from frequent flare-ups (aggravated symptoms) and periods of remission (asymptomatic periods). Initially, the small joints are affected, especially the joints of the fingers and toes. As the disease progresses, other joints may be affected, like the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. RA also presents with systemic signs and symptoms and other body systems may be affected in 40% of cases. If not diagnosed early and appropriately treated, RA can lead to permanent deformities, disabilities, and serious systemic complications.
There is no cure for RA, and it is a lifelong, progressive disease with multiple flare-ups. Several new types of medications, rehabilitation therapies, and surgery have improved treatment options dramatically, which have helped slow down or prevent progression, disabilities, reduce symptoms, and flare-ups. Although severe RA can still cause physical disabilities. Home remedies, diet, and lifestyle changes can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with RA alongside medical treatment. Home remedies alone cannot effectively treat RA or prevent the progression of the disease. It is advised to consult with a doctor before attempting home remedies. Patients should visit the doctor immediately if there is swelling of the joints, pain, or other symptoms that become worse or if new symptoms appear.
11 effective home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis
- Stretching: Stretching the muscles around the affected joints can help reduce discomfort and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Simple stretches and strengthening exercises can significantly reduce pain. It is advised to consult your doctor or physical therapist to learn effective stretching exercises because some exercises can increase stress on the joints, causing more damage.
- Exercise: Light, dynamic, and low-stress types of exercises like tai chi, yoga, Pilates, swimming, and cycling can benefit people with RA. Swimming and cycling are low impact exercises that can also effectively strengthen the joint muscles, reduce weight, and improve overall body weight.
- Heat and cold: Applying heating or cooling packs can help reduce discomfort in affected areas. Patients may use ice packs (ice cubes wrapped in cloth because ice should not be applied to the skin directly) or heating pads over the affected areas to reduce pain.
- Adequate rest: A balance between an active lifestyle and rest is important to avoid excessive stress on the joints. A sedentary lifestyle can worsen joint pain, while excessive activity can also worsen joint inflammation and pain. A doctor or physical therapist can advise on achieving the right balance.
- Managing stress: Reducing physical and psychological stress can benefit people with RA and reduce flare-ups. Stress relief may be achieved by meditation, tai chi, yoga, or counseling for emotional stress.
- Diet: Plant-based diet can boost may benefit patients with RA and improve overall health. A vegan diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds significantly reduces inflammation, pain, and discomfort in RA.
- Fish oil: Fish oil from cold-water fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, pain, and improve overall health. Fish oil supplements may be taken every day along with anti-inflammatory medication, which blocks inflammatory receptors, prescribed by the doctor.
- Turmeric and curcumin: Turmeric and curcumin have anti-inflammatory properties. They may be added to herbal teas or taken as supplements.
- Probiotics: Foods like yogurt and pickles are rich in probiotics. Probiotics may be taken as supplements as well. Taking probiotic supplements every day for 2-3 months has been found to decrease inflammation and pain. Probiotics also help improve digestive health and supplement immunity.
- Spices: Spices like cinnamon, pepper, garlic, and ginger when added to the diet can help with joint pain and reduce disease progression. These spices contain polyphenols, which are compounds that help in reducing degenerative changes in the cells.
- Green tea: The polyphenols and antioxidants in green tea have been shown to benefit joint pain in some patients.
Medical management of rheumatoid arthritis
Medical management usually involves a combination of more than one treatment modality. The treatment options are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs can relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Steroids: Corticosteroid medications suppress the immune system, reduce inflammation and pain, and delay joint damage.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These drugs are extremely effective in the treatment of RA. They suppress internal swelling and relieve symptoms. They can slow the progression and prevent joint deformities and other complications. Some commonly prescribed DMARDs are Methotrexate, Sulfasalazine, and Hydroxychloroquine.
- Biological modifiers: These are a newer generation of DMARDs, and they are usually taken with DMARDs to suppress inflammation. Some examples are Infliximab, Rituximab, etc.
- Physical therapy: Patients are usually referred for physical or occupational therapy to learn exercises for improving and maintaining joint flexibility and rehabilitation of joints.
- Surgery: Surgical procedures may be performed to help restore joint function and anatomy and reduce pain.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center
Top 11 Home Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis Related Articles
12 Early Signs of Arthritis in HandsHand arthritis occurs when there is inflammation in one or more joints of the hand and wrist. A few of the common types of arthritis that affect the hands are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis (arthritis as a result of an injury), psoriatic arthritis and gout.
14 Early Signs of Arthritis in the LegsLeg arthritis affects the joints of the hips, knees, ankles or feet. The early signs and symptoms of arthritis in the legs include pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion, trouble walking, fever, bump-like swelling and other symptoms.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Caused by Stress?Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory joint condition and an autoimmune disease. At times, treatment can make rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (pain and swelling) disappear for a while. This symptom-free period is referred to as “remission.” A remission is followed by the reappearance of symptoms and this period is known as a flare-up. Research says that rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by stress.
How Serious Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the joints and other body parts, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. RA is an autoimmune disorder, a condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. If not diagnosed early and appropriately treated, RA can lead to permanent deformities, disabilities and serious systemic complications.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) annually affects one child in every thousand. There are six types of JRA. Treatment of juvenile arthritis depends upon the type the child has and should focus on treating the symptoms that manifest.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following.
- Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
- Joint deformity
- Joint pain
- Joint redness
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Joint tenderness
- Joint warmth
- Loss of joint function
- Loss of joint range of motion
- Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
16 Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms and SignsEarly RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree.
RA Friendly ExercisesRegular exercise boosts fitness and helps reverse joint stiffness for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Our experts offer helpful exercises to get you started.
RA SlideshowWhat is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Learn about treatment, diagnosis, and the symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Discover rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes and the best medication for RA and JRA.
RA QuizHow is rheumatoid arthritis different from other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and gout? Take the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Quiz to rest your RA IQ.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: RA Home Remedies That Don't WorkPeople try all sorts of things to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain. WebMD debunks some of the common ones and lets you know what needs more testing.
Famous Faces of RALearn more about the famous faces of rheumatoid arthritis such as Lucille Ball, Glenn Frey, and more.
Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. ArthritisArthritis is a general term used to describe joint disease. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing chronic inflammation.
Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. FibromyalgiaThough rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia have similar symptoms, RA is an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome. RA symptoms include joint redness, swelling, and pain that lasts more than six weeks. Fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread pain, tingling feet or hands, depression, and bowel irritability. Home remedies for both include stress reduction, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
What Are the Four Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis?Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by pain and inflammation in joints, typically of the hands and feet. It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body attacks its own healthy cells, resulting in inflammation of the membrane lining the joints and damage to joint tissue.