What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Considered a joint disorder, arthritis is when inflammation regularly occurs in one or more joints. It is characterized by redness and swelling in the affected areas, reduced motion, and it causes joint pain.
Arthritis is not always a permanent condition, and the blanket term for inflammation of the joints encompasses many conditions including but not limited to rheumatoid arthritis, primary and secondary osteoarthritis, and gout.
It is estimated that more than 1.5 million Americans are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. But how does rheumatoid arthritis differ from arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis is considered a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease attributed to the immune system attacking the body’s joints.
Tendons may experience inflammation, swelling, and fatigue, but the person suffering from the condition may also experience bouts with depression or other distress. Physical symptoms usually affect small joints – such as swollen or stiff hands and feet – and are worse in the morning hours or when first waking.
While a lot can be determined about the condition from surveying the patient and viewing the affected areas, the best way to determine the type and severity of the condition is with imaging, such as x-rays.
These comprehensive visuals of the bone and connective tissue inside the body can reveal bone erosion, reduced joint space, and carpal erosion. Additional tests and blood work can identify the ailment by increased ESR and platelets. Rheumatoid arthritis is also present in blood samples.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis may last for years, or it may even become permanent, but it can stem from a variety of causes, including injury, genetics, wear on the body, and infection. Rheumatoid arthritis is understood to be due to age, smoking, obesity, family history, and other causes.
Most often, it is treated with medicine and changes in one’s lifestyle, but extreme cases could require surgery. However, a growing trend is that people would rather avoid pharmaceuticals and surgery for treatment. It can be difficult to determine what directly causes joint pain and the best treatment solution. If the condition is left untreated, swelling in joints can worsen, and there can be severe damage over time.
Home Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The most common prescriptions for moderate to severe RA are NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and DMARDs. Most of these pharmaceuticals reduce pain, inflammation, or curtail the body’s auto-immune response that is causing it to attack the joints and tendons. In the worst or most advanced cases, the medical recommendation may be surgery.
However, there are several self-management practices and behaviors that people with this condition can implement to seek some relief. The following practices and home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis have been curated for the amount of scientific study conducted or supporting the proposed remedy.
Many of them are expected to be used as an adjunct to doctor-recommended prescriptions or more expensive and invasive therapies and procedures. These recommendations and the studies do not substitute evaluation and suggested action from a medical professional, but they have been reviewed and studied as potentially beneficial management practices.
- Heat and Cold Treatments – While the effects are best seen with physical therapy and therapeutic exercises, thermotherapy has been studied to show some effect on the hands of those diagnosed with the condition.
- Increased Intake of Vitamin D – Studies are still being conducted, but recent tests and research shows that Vitamin D from food sources and supplements may reduce the likelihood or severity of having RA. Milk and dairy products seem to have the most lasting preventive effect, but all sources meeting daily recommended values should have benefits.
- Mud Compress Therapies – It has been observed in several small group studies that placing heated mud packs on the hands of rheumatoid arthritis patients or those suffering inflammatory forms of arthritis relieves and reduces painful, swollen tendons. Dead sea mud or muds and clays that are rich in some salts and minerals that tend to have the greatest effects.
- Specific Exercises and Movements – Prolonged inactivity causes joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Low impact exercise programs and aerobics have shown a positive impact on symptoms of fatigue, depression, and pain in RA patients. These exercises and motions have been shown to build the muscles that support the area and improve range of motion with time. Balance exercises have proven to be beneficial, as well.
- Incorporating More Plant-Based Meals – Physiological studies show that diets with less meat and more raw, plant-based nutrition can have a positive effect on the mood, sleep, soreness, inflammation, and in patients with or at increased risk of RA. Other dietary adjustments that have been linked to improvement are fasting and vegetarianism.
- Exercise with Cognitive Treatment – Again, exercise dictates self-efficacy in mood, pain, fatigue, etc. However, incorporating cognitive treatment appears to improve the perception of pain.
- Wax Bath or Warm Wax Treatment – When combined with therapeutic exercise and movement, placing hands in a warm wax bath before activity has been shown to improve range of motion and grip strength in the hands of those suffering from RA. Much like a paraffin wax bath at a nail salon, the materials for the treatment can be purchased and used at home. The heat from the wax dip and coating relaxes the affected muscles, improves the fluidity of motion, and enhance blood circulation in the treated area.
- Stress Control Practices – Many types of arthritis have been linked to the body’s response to stress. Younger members of the RA community have found that practices aimed at controlling, limiting, and reducing stress also improve the pain and symptoms of RA or the perception of pain and symptoms. In many cases, this involves biofeedback, which is responding to changes such as increased breathing or heart rate. Some stress control practices can be as simple as breathing exercises or routinely making time to meditate.
- Healing Metals, Jewelry, and Wearable Support – It is not an uncommon belief that certain metals, often worn on the body as jewelry, can have healing or soothing properties. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, copper is the most common, but there is also something to be said for serum Iron and Zinc.
Other wearable support includes, but is not limited to, wrist splints and ankle and leg supports. These may be structural support only or be made with the listed materials as part of the structure.
- Massage Therapy – While it may be coupled with thermotherapy and aromatherapy practices, massaging or continual rubbing while applying moderate pressure has been frequently shown to have temporary and lasting effects on pain, fatigue, and inflammation associated with RA. Home massage on yourself or from a loved one can have a significant impact and it is one of the most inexpensive home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis. Therapeutic massage from a licensed professional would be best but more costly.
The number of people living with rheumatoid arthritis continues to rise. Sufferers find it difficult to complete daily tasks and face restrictions. Rheumatoid arthritis can have as much effect on mental health as it does on physical health.
RA can have debilitating effects, and one of the most common complaints of sufferers is that it causes joint pain. People used to rely on pain medications to relieve the discomfort and inflammation, but now, more and more people are seeking alternative treatment to a life of prescription pills and potentially risky surgeries that may still create pain and fatigue in the joints.
There are many options available for home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis but it would be fair to say that many of them work best in conjunction with lifestyle changes and healthier practices. Dietary changes that incorporate more Vitamin D and fasting, with fewer animal-based meals would significantly reduce the common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. For a greater effect, adding light aerobic, balance, and range of motion exercises, and stress reduction techniques are helpful.
Speak with a medical professional if you or a loved one is experiencing severe signs of rheumatoid arthritis. Then, ask your doctor which lifestyle changes and home remedies from this article might be most helpful to you.