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Natural Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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What About Mind/Body Therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis? continued...

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.

Keep in mind that even natural supplements can interact with other medications. Be sure your doctor is aware of all drugs and supplements you are taking.

Supplements for RA that have the best medical research to back them up include:

Fish oil. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Several studies have shown that fish oil supplements may help reduce morning stiffness with RA. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help protect against heart disease. People with RA are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Fish oil appears to be safe when used appropriately. Doses greater than 3 grams per day may increase the chance of bleeding.

Thunder god vine. A few studies have shown a decrease in inflammation and tender joints in people with RA taking this supplement. A large government-funded study that compared this root with sulfasalazine, a traditional drug used to treat RA, found that symptoms improved more with the use of thunder god vine. Side effects may include stomach upset, headache, hair loss, upper respiratory tract infections, and sterility in men. Pregnant women and women at risk of developing osteoporosis should not take it. However, obtaining safe and high quality thunder god vine manufactured in the U.S. is difficult, and the safety and efficacy of thunder god vine from China is difficult to verify, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on May 24, 2014
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