Are There Natural Treatments for RA?

You’ll need to keep up with your usual medical care, but some additional treatments might help, too.

Many of them are simple, like using heat and ice packs. Others, like acupuncture, need a trained pro.

Ask your doctor what would be most helpful for you, and if there are any limits on what’s OK for you to try.

Heat and Cold

Many doctors recommend heat and cold treatments to ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Cold curbs joint swelling and inflammation. You can apply an ice pack to the affected joint during an RA flare-up, for instance.

You don't want to overdo cold treatments. Apply the cold compress for 15 minutes at a time with at least a 30-minute break in between treatments.

Heat relaxes your muscles and spurs blood flow. You can use a moist heating pad or a warm, damp towel. Many people like using microwaveable hot packs.

Don't go too hot. Your skin shouldn’t burn.

You can also use heat therapy in the shower. Let the warm water hit the painful area on your body. That may help soothe it.

A hot tub is a good way to relax stiff muscles. Just don’t use hot tubs or spas if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or are pregnant.


Magnet therapies come in a variety of forms, such as bracelets, necklaces, inserts, pads, or disks. You can find them at most natural food stores.

Most research on magnets has been done in people with osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear type of arthritis linked to aging, not RA.

In people with knee and hip osteoarthritis, some early studies have shown they improved joint pain better than a placebo. Doctors don’t know exactly how magnets might relieve pain, and it’s not clear if they might also help people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Mind/Body Therapies

They can help you manage stress. They’re also good for sleep and pain management.

Deep breathing: Take slow breaths from your belly. It can calm you and pull you back from stress.

Progressive muscle relaxation: To do this, tighten and then relax the muscles in different parts of your body. You can work your way down the body, starting with your face muscles, followed by your neck, arms, chest, back, belly, legs, and feet. Or work your way up from your feet. Breathe in as you contract your muscles. Breathe out when you let go.


Visualization: This can help reduce stress and pain. With this exercise, you close your eyes, breathe deeply, and picture yourself in a quiet, peaceful place.

Meditation : This technique can be as simple as focusing on your breathing and just noticing each inhale and exhale. It doesn’t require any spiritual beliefs, and it’s not about being super-calm. Anyone can do it, and only a few minutes can make a difference. Your mind will almost certainly wander. That’s OK. Just return your attention to your breath, or whatever else you choose to focus on.

Tai chi : This slow, gentle martial art is easy on your joints. It can help with flexibility and strength, too.

Acupuncture : This traditional form of Chinese medicine uses super-fine needles to stimulate energy pathways called "meridians" in the body to correct imbalances of energy, or "qi."

There’s not a lot of research specific to RA. But studies do show that acupuncture helps with pain, especially back pain. It may also help with osteoarthritis.

Biofeedback : This technique helps you learn to control automatic responses such as heart rate and blood pressure. You do this with sensors on your body, which send information to a monitor. A therapist teaches you how to control your reaction to stresses. There isn’t enough research to know if it works to curb RA pain, but it may be something to try.


A few RA studies show some benefit for certain supplements and natural remedies. But the research is still in its early stages, so the bottom line isn’t clear yet.

Keep in mind that supplements can affect other medications. Tell your doctor about anything you take, even if it’s natural, so he can check that it’s safe for you.

The most promising supplements include:

Fish oil . Several studies have shown that fish oil supplements may help reduce morning stiffness with RA. Omega-3s curb inflammation and help protect against heart disease. That’s good for people with RA, who are more likely than other people to get heart disease. Fish oil appears to be safe when used appropriately. Don’t get more than 3 grams per day because of the risk of bleeding.


Thunder god vine. A few studies have shown a drop in inflammation and tender joints in people with RA who take 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 getting osteoporosis should not take it.

Keep in mind that it’s hard to get safe and high-quality thunder god vine made in the U.S. The safety and effectiveness of thunder god vine from outside the U.S., for example from China, can't be verified according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on July 20, 2016



NCCAM: "Rheumatoid Arthritis and Complementary and Alternative Medicine;"  "The Use of Magnets for Pain" and "Thunder God Vine."

Session 3: Joint Nutrition Society and Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute Symposium on "Nutrition and autoimmune disease" PUFA, inflammatory processes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis Today: "Supplement Guide."

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: "Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Sales, D.  Reumatismo, July-September 2008.

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