Rheumatoid arthritis (also known as RA,) is a debilitating autoimmune disease. While symptoms can usually be managed through medication, alternative forms of treatment may compliment traditional methods, reducing symptoms even further. Acupuncture, massage, magnet therapy, and fish oil supplements may be effective at decreasing pain and inflammation.
A staple of ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture centers around the belief that the body is flowing with energy, called qi. Qi travels through vein-like passageways known as meridians. When those meridians become blocked—usually the result of disease, poor diet, or stress—qi is unable to flow evenly. Acupuncturists use the insertion of thin needles in the skin to break up any obstructions and create clear passageways for qi.
In some RA patients, acupuncture can help reduce pain associated with the disease. Some have noticed an even greater reduction in pain when the acupuncture needles are stimulated with a mild electrical current.
Massage therapy has a reputation for relieving tension and reducing pain. Its benefits aren't just limited to those having a rough week at the office-- massage can be a great tool in the fight against RA.
Massage stimulates blood flow throughout the body's muscles, speeding up healing and reducing inflammation. Although it's not generally recommended during an RA flare-up, when symptoms are in remission massage can help ease symptoms.
Magnet therapy usually involves a person wearing a magnetic bracelet or patch, with the magnets coming into close contact with the skin. Proponents of magnet therapy believe that magnets promote cellular health, increase blood flow throughout the body, and change the way the brain perceives pain.
Some studies have indicated that magnet therapy may reduce pain in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Although there isn't enough evidence to fully confirm its effectiveness, it may be worth considering for those struggling to control their symptoms.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and assist in the building of cell membranes around the brain. For those with rheumatoid arthritis, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s can be particularly beneficial.
Although it's ideal to get adequate amounts of omega-3s from food—it's found in certain types of fish, including salmon, tuna, and anchovies, as well as vegetable oil and spinach—supplements are a good option for those unable to consume enough.
If medication hasn't provided total relief from the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, alternative treatment options may help improve quality of life.