In America, more than 50 million adults suffer from arthritis, making it extremely common. Despite the statistic, the condition is not very well understood, especially rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, the word arthritis refers not to a single disease but is really just an informal way of referring to a joint pain or disease. Rheumatoid Arthritis, or RA , is a very painful disease with some very sneaky symptoms, and more people should understand what exactly it is and how it should be treated.
The many different types, ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to osteoarthritis, do have common symptoms: swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and pain. Symptoms can come and go, staying for years at mild, moderate, or severe levels.
Doctors often prescribe medication to help relieve arthritis patients of those symptoms, but most of the time those medications can cause unwanted side effects. These side effects have made finding natural and at-home remedies more popular.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. That means that the immune system, which is meant to keep their body healthy by attacking bacteria and other things that can make one sick, mistakenly attacks the body’s joints.
The joints become inflamed, and this causes a certain type of tissue called synovium to stiffen. The synovium makes a lubricating fluid that helps the joints to move more smoothly, so when it thickens in those with RA, the resulting consequences can cause severe joint pain.
Increasing inflammation can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue around the bone, and even the bone itself. Joints can become loose, unstable, immobile, and deformed.
Symptoms of RA
Achy Joints. RA affects the joints directly, so it’s no surprise that a symptom of RA is aching joints. The aching usually lasts more than a week in those with RA. This is a tricky symptom to link to RA, however, because in aging adults, aching joints are often attributed to other conditions.
Joint Stiffness/Locking. Those with RA will often wake up with aching joints that last through a large part of their day, if not into the next. Joints can also lock up because of swollen tendons, which can lead to cysts that puff out from behind the joint (usually in the knee) and impede motion.
Carpal Tunnel. Carpal Tunnel syndrome is quite often a symptom of RA. An effect of inflammation, swelling in the arm can compress the nerves that lead to the hands.
Hard to Heal Injuries. This symptom tends to be more common in those who develop RA at a younger age. Injuries that are sore or aching longer than they should be can often be contributed to the stress of always being in action, but in reality, the soreness can come from RA.
How Does Weight Affect Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis?
One of the best remedies to arthritis pain is, unfortunately, not the easiest. However, it’s extremely important to not only your joint and muscle pain relief but also to a healthy lifestyle in general.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight will take a lot of pressure off of your joints. Every pound that you lose is four pounds of pressure off of your knees, which can and will greatly reduce the amount of pain that you feel.
Of course, exercise and weight maintenance go hand in hand, and exercise is also key to helping reduce arthritis pain. People used to think exercise made arthritis worse, but the opposite is actually true. For a “generally” healthy person, exercise forms healthy bones, muscles, and joints, keeping bodies limber. So for those with neck arthritis and back arthritis, exercise will help keep the body stronger and reduce pain.
Of course, this has its limits. Runners with osteoarthritis should cut down their mileage and run on softer surfaces, like tracks. Good exercise programs will include a mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises.
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for RA. It is important to diagnose as early as possible so that the disease can be treated aggressively from the start. Treatment is meant to reduce pain and maximize the function of the joints. Treatment often involves multiple factors, involving medication.
Medication for RA is often subdivided into two groups: ease of pain, slow of disease.
Ease of pain medications are anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen that are readily available without a prescription (in smaller doses). In some extreme cases, surgery may be needed with those with severe symptoms that inhibit day-to-day functions.
Medications that slow the activity of the disease are a bit more complicated and will likely be prescribed based upon personal RA cases. Groups of these medications include:
- Corticosteroids: These act quickly to keep inflammation under control. Doctors prefer to use them for the shortest time possible because of side effects risks.
- DMARDs: (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) These modify the course of RA, and they can be taken in a variety of ways.
- Biologics: These are a subset of DMARDs but are injected or infused by a doctor. They target specific steps in the disease activity of RA. This can help many people who haven’t been helped by other types of treatments.
- JAK Inhibitors: Another subset of DMARDs, these block the Janus kinase pathways that are involved in the response of the immune system. They can be taken by mouth.
Topical Treatments for Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you’re looking for pretty direct pain relief, there are plenty of natural, homeopathic treatments that you can create by adding few items to your pantry.
- Mustard Seed: Mustard seed can make a great topical treatment for arthritis pain relief. You can create a rub or a plaster with warm mustard seed oil and apply it directly to the joints that are in pain. The heat produced by the oil will improve blood flow, providing relief.
- Myrrh: Myrrh is highly valued in the Middle East, where it is found most abundantly, for it’s anti-inflammatory effects. Applying it as a salve will reduce inflammation and help reduce pain.
- Hot and Cold Therapy: This method is considered tried and true for a reason. Long, warm showers or baths (in the morning, especially) will help ease stiffness that causes pain. Sleeping with an electric blanket or heating pad at night will keep your joints lose through your slumber
- Epsom Salt: To increase the level of pain relief that you get from a soak in the bath, add epsom salts. You can soak just one part of your body (hand, ankle) in a large bowl with warm water and epsom salts, but for neck arthritis and back arthritis, just add the salts to a full bath.
- Capsaicin: This treatment is not for the faint of heart and should be used sparingly, if possible, as it provides relatively quick but temporary pain relief. Popular OTC pain relievers have capsaicin (the part of the pepper that makes it hot), but you can easily make one yourself.
Dietary Supplements for Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief
Applying treatments like the ones described above can help both temporarily and in the long term, but you can help yourself even more by adding different supplements to your routine and even spices or juices to your diet.
- Mustard Seed: This herb can be used not only as the rub described above but also through consumption. When consumed, it is a rich source of selenium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have all been linked to improving arthritis pain.
- Frankincense: Frankincense is a tree resin that has been around and used for various reasons since biblical times. Consuming it as a nutritional supplement has been found to help knee pain caused by arthritis.
- Tart Cherries: This tasty fruit contains an abundance of antioxidants called anthocyanins that work as anti-inflammatory agents. Tart cherry extract has helped those with rheumatoid arthritis, as it blocks the pathways in our body that signal inflammation and cause pain.
- Magnesium Supplements: You can add foods, spices, or herbs to your diet that are high in magnesium, but if you want to be more direct, go straight for magnesium supplements. Magnesium relaxes muscles and nerve endings, relieving stiffness and arthritis pain while helping your bones mineralize too.
- White Willow Tea: This tea works like a natural aspirin. It was used by the ancient Greeks to relieve pain because it contains salicin. Salicin converted in the body to a salicylic acid, similar to the way that aspirin does its job, but naturally.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Relief
There may be no cure for arthritis right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with the pain. If you think that you may be experiencing abnormal joint pain, speak with your doctor about the possibility of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Then call the Microsurgery Spine & Pain Institute to discuss treatment options best for you.