Many people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) choose to incorporate non-traditional therapies into their treatment plan. These treatments may be in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) traditional drug therapies and other Western medicine approaches such as physical therapy. These types of treatments are collectively known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. Some people find relief from RA symptoms by using CAM therapies, and others believe that these approaches can slow the progress of the disease. No drug or treatment can cure RA.
Popular complementary therapies for RA include supplements, exercise, medical marijuana, hot and cold compresses, massage, magnetic therapy, biofeedback, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices such as acupuncture; mind-body practices such as meditation, prayer, and progressive muscle relaxation; Ayurvedic medicine, chiropractic, and reflexology. Some CAM approaches have been proven in clinical trials to treat certain symptoms successfully, but other approaches have not been proven effective. Some treatments come with side effects, or can interact in a dangerous way with drugs you are taking. Many people show a significant improvement when they first begin any new treatment due to the placebo effect.
Many existing studies on complementary therapies for RA do not meet strict industry standards for clinical proof. Other studies furnish conflicting evidence that is inconclusive. Further studies are ongoing into a wide array of CAM therapies for rheumatoid arthritis.
If you choose to try one or more CAM therapies, it is important to maintain the drug regimen established by your doctor. Drug treatments have been proven effective in rigorous, scientific trials. It is also vital to inform your doctor of all treatments you incorporate so that they can warn you about any potential interactions and correctly interpret any side effects.
What does it involve?
Below are the basic facts of some of the CAM therapies proven to be effective at treating RA based on clinical trials.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Eleven other states allow restricted use of certain types of medical marijuana products. In places where marijuana products are sold legally, it is often available in a wide variety of formats. Cannabinoids (active substances in marijuana) may be purchased as lozenges, sprays, edible products and topical ointments as well as products that may be smoked or vaporized and inhaled. Ask your doctor for dosage and administration directions.
There is a wide range of mind-body practices. Meditation can be seated or moving, guided or solitary. Biofeedback involves wearing special sensors on your head that monitor your brainwaves. You view a visualization of your brainwaves and attempt to change the pattern in ways that control or lessen symptoms. Prayer may take many forms depending on the spiritual tradition you follow.
Constraints Ayurvedic medicine involves a combination of individualized diet and specially prescribed herbs.
All CAM therapies are intended to ease symptoms of RA and help you feel your best.
Several studies have proven that cannabinoids, the active chemicals in medical marijuana, can ease pain associated with RA. Cannabinoids may also ease inflammation.
Studies have shown that mind-body techniques can lessen pain and disability. Mind-body practices may also improve people’s sense of well-being and ability to cope with difficult situations.
A small, preliminary study of Ayurvedic medicine indicates that it may significantly decrease RA symptoms.
Some insurers will cover certain CAM therapies, but others may not cover any, or may not cover the specific therapy you want to try. Out-of-pocket costs CAM therapies may be expensive.
Medical marijuana may not be legal in your state. If it is, it may not be covered by insurance, and it may be expensive. Marijuana can have side effects including nausea, dry mouth, red eyes, vomiting, problems with heart or blood pressure, depression, anxiety, depression, dizziness, sleepiness and sexual dysfunction. Marijuana should not be used by pregnant women.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find or travel to an Ayurvedic practitioner. Some Ayurvedic herbs may produce side effects. Following Ayurvedic diets may require making changes in your food shopping, cooking, and eating habits.