Natural Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
What About Mind/Body Therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis? continued...
Progressive muscle relaxation: Concentrating on different muscle groups, contract, then relax, all of the major muscle groups in the body. Start with your head, neck, and arms. Then contract and relax your chest, back, and stomach. Finish by doing your pelvis, legs, and feet.
Along with muscle relaxation, use deep breathing. Breathe in while tensing the muscles. Breathe out or exhale while relaxing the muscles.
Visualization: Visualization can help reduce stress and pain. With this exercise, you close your eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine that you're in a quiet, peaceful place. Using visualization during stressful times can be soothing and refreshing.
Meditation: Meditation brings about relaxation and stress reduction. It can slow the heart rate and breathing, and help with pain perception. Those who practice meditation tell of having decreased anxiety and depression. They also report increased concentration and resilience.
Tai chi: Studies are being done on tai chi for pain reduction. The movements of tai chi are gentle and graceful, making the practice safe for people with arthritis. Tai chi can also help increase range of motion and joint strength. Some people believe that tai chi has a spiritual component, because it encourages the mind to focus away from pain.
Acupuncture: With acupuncture, the practitioner uses stainless steel needles to stimulate the major pathways -- called "meridians" -- in the body. The goal is to stimulate various points targeted at specific areas of the body. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe acupuncture can heal imbalances of energy, or "qi." The practitioner tries to restore balance to the sick body and boost the immune system. It's believed good health happens when qi flows unrestricted throughout the body.
Some doctors believe acupuncture needles decrease pain by triggering pain-blocking chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are known as the body's natural opioids. Other theories suggest that acupuncture may block pain signals.
Although little research has been done on people with rheumatoid arthritis, acupuncture studies do show an improvement in pain, particularly in people with back pain. Some studies have also shown a decrease in pain in people with osteoarthritis.
Biofeedback: With biofeedback, you learn to control automatic responses such as heart rate and blood pressure. By placing electric sensors on the body, information is sent to a monitor. You then have to react to stimuli such as thoughts, pictures, or sounds. Working with a therapist, you'll study your body's reactions to the stimuli. The therapist will help you recognize feelings of increased tension and teach you ways to calm yourself.
There is insufficient medical evidence to determine how well biofeedback helps pain from arthritis.
Are There Safe Supplements for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
There are a few rheumatoid arthritis studies that show some benefit for certain supplements and natural remedies. However, the research is preliminary, so the true impact these supplements may have on RA is uncertain.