Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that usually affects the lining of smaller joints like fingers and toes. With time, it can even affect the knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. Eventually, it can result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2007, there were about 1.5 million Americans suffering from this disease.
It is more common in women than men. It is usually diagnosed in people over age 40, however, younger adults and even children can have it.
Other risk factors include family history, environmental factors like smoking, exposure to silica mineral and chronic periodontal disease.
Also known as RA, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the membranes that surround the joints (synovium). It is not known what starts this process.
Symptoms of RA come and go. When the body tissues are inflamed, the disease is active and leads to symptoms including muscle and joint aches, swelling, morning stiffness, and fatigue. When the tissue inflammation subsides, the disease is inactive and symptoms go away.
There is no known cure for RA. However, medicines as well as many home remedies can ease the symptoms and provide relief.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis.
Regular exercise is one of the first steps you need to take to fight rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Exercise will help reduce fatigue, strengthen muscles and increase range of motion.
Plus, it will reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and help fight depression, which can plague anyone coping with RA.
Three types of exercise are very helpful:
- Range-of-motion exercises should be done for at least 30 minutes daily.
- Strengthening exercises should be done 2 or 3 times a week.
- Endurance (cardio or aerobic) exercises should be done for at least 30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week.
If needed, consult an expert about how to start an exercise program and which types of exercises to do and avoid.
2. Hot and Cold Compresses
Alternating hot and cold compresses can also help deal with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. While a hot compress will reduce pain by relaxing sore muscles and joints, a cold compress will dull the pain and reduce joint swelling and inflammation.
- Wrap a hot water bag in a towel for the hot compress.
- Wrap some ice cubes in a thin towel for the cold compress.
- Place the hot compress on the affected area for about 3 minutes.
- Remove it and immediately put the cold compress in its place for about 1 minute.
- Repeat the process for 15 to 20 minutes a few times daily until you get relief.
You can also use these compresses separately.
Note: Avoid hot compresses if the affected area is red, hot and irritated. Do not use cold therapy if you have circulatory problems.
3. Fish Oil
Several studies show that fish oil also helps reduce joint pain and stiffness due to RA. Fish oil has omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA – that have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and can help reduce pain. Also, fish oil helps protect against heart disease, which people with RA have a higher risk of developing.
- Take up to 2.6 grams of fish oil (with at least 30% EPA/ DHA) twice daily.
- Also include cold water fish, such as tuna and salmon, in your diet.
Note: Consult your doctor before taking fish oil supplements as they may interfere with certain medications.
To help fight RA symptoms, you can use turmeric. A study done in 2012 shows that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, contains potent anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties that work better than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Turmeric can prevent joint inflammation by blocking certain enzymes and cytokines that cause inflammation.
- Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder and boil it for another 10 minutes. Allow it to cool and drink it once or twice daily.
- Alternatively, you can take 500 to 1,000 mg turmeric capsules 3 times per day. Consult your doctor first.
- Also add turmeric powder in your daily cooking for additional benefits.
Note: Avoid high doses of turmeric as it can act as a blood thinner and cause stomach upset.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is also very effective in providing relief from many of the symptoms of RA. Being rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, it helps reduce pain and inflammation.
- Add 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey to 1/2 cup of warm water. Drink it once daily.
- You can also apply some apple cider vinegar to the affected area. Next, massage warm castor oil onto the affected area. Finally, wrap the area with a cotton cloth and cover it with plastic. Do this daily before going to bed.
Due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties, garlic is also recommended for treating RA. Garlic inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory substances known as cytokines, which helps reduce pain and swelling.
Also, it inhibits the formation of free radicals that can cause joint damage and promotes a healthy immune system. For rheumatoid arthritis patients, raw and fresh garlic is recommended.
- Eat 1 to 2 raw garlic cloves daily.
- You can also take garlic capsules. For correct dosage, consult your doctor.