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Alternative Therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Healthy lifestyle choices are key to living well with RA.

Why Exercise Is Important With RA

For Williams, exercise plays a big role in her new lease on life. “I try to exercise as much as I can,” she says. “I ride a stationary bike and I try to stretch through the day at work.”

While many people with RA feel they can’t exercise due to joint pain, they actually can’t afford not to. “One of the biggest problems is that in the past people with joint problems were told the best thing to do is rest their joints, and we know now nothing could be further from the truth,” Bartlett says.

Exercise also helps people with RA maintain a healthy weight, which can aid in alleviating some of the symptoms of the disease. As people gain weight, they increase the stress placed on their joints, creating more problems with arthritis.

Getting into a down-facing dog or cat pose may also be great for RA. “We think yoga is an ideal approach to physical activity in RA,” Bartlett says. In an ongoing study at Hopkins, “we are finding that RA patients who do yoga are feeling better, reporting higher quality of life, and functioning better and are less depressed.”

Emotional Health and RA

Eliminating depression is really important in people with RA or other chronic diseases. Up to one-third of people with RA are clinically depressed, Bartlett says.

“You have to continue to do things in life that give you pleasure and find new things that bring pleasure,” she says. Whether acupuncture, yoga, omega-3 fatty acids, or anything else, “the key is to find out what works for you and do it.”

That’s what Williams did, and it made all the difference. “There are still days when it is tough, but prior to doing acupuncture, changing my diet, and exercising, my bad days were really bad, and now my bad days are what my good days used to be, and my good days are great days.”

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Reviewed on February 23, 2009

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