What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis home remedies may offer some relief.
Rheumatoid arthritis home remedies may offer some relief.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Turmeric and curcumin: Turmeric and curcumin have anti-inflammatory properties. They may be added to herbal teas or taken as supplements.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Green tea: The polyphenols and antioxidants in green tea have been shown to benefit joint pain in some patients.

Medical management of rheumatoid arthritis

Physical Therapy
Patients are usually referred for physical or occupational therapy to learn exercises for improving and maintaining joint flexibility and rehabilitation of joints. Pool exercise is a low-impact exercise for the body.

Medical management usually involves a combination of more than one treatment modality. The treatment options are:

  • Medications
    • 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.

QUESTION

The term arthritis refers to stiffness in the joints. See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 4/22/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference

Arthritis Foundation


Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network


Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center