Skip to main content

6 Things To Know About Complementary Health Approaches for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks the joints. It commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees, and symptoms include pain, stiffness, tenderness, and swelling. Treatment usually includes medications that slow the disease and prevent joint deformity, along with self-management strategies to reduce pain and disability. 

A variety of complementary health approaches have been studied to see if they can help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Here are 6 things you should know about them:

  1. Some psychological or physical complementary health approaches—such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, tai chi, and yoga—may be beneficial additions to conventional treatment plans for rheumatoid arthritis. However, some studies indicate that these practices may do more to improve other aspects of patients’ health than to relieve pain.

  2. Only a few studies have looked at the effect of acupuncture on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and their results have not been consistent.

  3. Fish oil supplements may help to alleviate tender joints and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis and reduce the need for pain medicine.

  4. Oils containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), such as evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant oil, may have some benefit in relieving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, but only a few studies have been done on each oil.

  5. Research on thunder god vine suggests that it may improve some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, but only a few high-quality studies have been done on this herb. Thunder god vine can have serious side effects, and its risks may exceed its benefits.

  6. Follow your health care provider’s instructions on how to treat rheumatoid arthritis. To get the best results, don’t substitute other approaches for treatments prescribed or recommended by your provider. Consult your provider about adding any complementary health products or practices to your treatment program.