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Alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complex disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and destroys a thin membrane around the joints called Synovium. This causes fluid to build up in the joints, which in turn causes severe pain and inflation that can be through out the body. Characterized as an autoimmune disease and a form of inflammatory arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can be extremely painful and immobilize a person.

It is estimated that one crore people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in India, which is a chronic disease or one that has no cure. While global pharmaceutical major Pfizer’s new drug, Tofacitimb, is expected to contribute significantly in reduction of inflammation and progression of disease, it will not come cheap. When launched in India it will cost about Rs. 1.2 lakh ($2500) a month. 

There are, however, plenty of affordable and alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis patients that are known to be very effective and bring a lot of relief.

Fish Oil

Fish oil has high amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and this makes it a good item in rheumatoid arthritis therapy. Fish oil is seen to raise levels of adiponectin in the bloodstream. Adiponectin is an important hormone that has beneficial effects on metabolic processes like glucose regulation and the modulation of inflammation. A person can also use Flaxseed (Alsi in India) which is again high on Omega-2. Flaxseed is readily available in both whole and ground forms. While the ground form is convenient to use, the whole seeds have a longer shelf life.


It is important for a patient with rheumatoid arthritis to realize that pain and immobility is not because of a sprain or a broken muscle or tissue. In most cases it is seen that exercises, especially muscle and bone strengthening exercises, go a long way in providing relief. It is important for  rheumatoid arthritis patient to maintain flexibility and exercises help in that. A patient can visit physiotherapy center and learn exercises which can then be performed everyday at home. A physiotherapist can also provide instant pain relief though use heat, ice, and stimulations. Hot and Cold treatment can also be used at home through hot water bag and ice packs when in pain.



Like exercise Yoga also proves to be very helpful in maintaining rheumatoid arthritis. According to research practicing yoga, breathing and relaxation significantly reduces joint tenderness and swelling for people with RA. Sukhasana (Meditative posture), Shoulder Stretches (Talasana), Neck Exercises, Standing Side Stretch Pose (Konasana), Hand Clenching, Wrist Bending, Ankle Bending, Ankle Rotation, Shavasana (Relaxation) are some of the Yoga poses that can be helpful. It is advisable that a rheumatoid arthritis patient finds a teacher or yoga therapist for this.


Ginger Root & Turmeric

Ginger has been a form of ayurvedic medicine for centuries in India and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that use of Ginger has led to improvement in joint pain and swelling in rheumatoid arthritis patients. 

Similarly Turmeric or haldhi is another traditional medicine which shows good response to rheumatoid arthritis. Research has shown that Turmeric can significantly improve morning stiffness, walking time, and joint swelling for rheumatoid arthritis patients.


Boswellia, also known as Salai or Shallaki, is a tree found primarily in India. Extract of the gum of this tree is used as an anti-inflammatory agent for thousands of years. Boswellia has shown good results in treating rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Zinc Supplements

Zinc is popularly believed to reduce and stall inflammation. It is recommended that about 50 mg of zinc three times a day can reduce pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness.

Other food habits

It will help a rheumatoid arthritis patient if his or her food intake is low-protein and, high-carbohydrate diet. One should eliminate milk and milk products and avoid fried or oily products. One should also eliminate or reduce intake of coffee and tobacco.

It is also seen that Celery, which has large amounts of potassium is also very helpful in rheumatoid arthritis cases.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: July 19, 2013