Living with rheumatoid arthritis or RA could be difficult. Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups are the times when your RA symptoms intensify temporarily. Flares are periods when there is an increased disease activity and during which symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, usually joint pain, stiffness, and swelling become more severe. In general, patients with rheumatoid arthritis find that their RA flare-ups come and go throughout their lives. The duration of RA flares varies from a few days to even several months. There are several methods to deal with Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups, which includes some home remedies. Let us read further to know about some of the ways to manage rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
17 Ways to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-Ups
There are NSAIDs, prescribed medications, and also in some cases surgeries available to treat rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are also some home remedies and lifestyle changes that could help you to deal with Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
One of the best ways to deal with RA flare-ups is to exercise regularly. This helps in strengthening your muscles and also increase joint range of motion. Research from the year 2014 has found that exercise might also help in improving your sleep quality along with fatigue in patients with Rheumatoid arthritis. You need to choose exercises that do not stress the affected joints.
Some of the low-impact exercises, which you can choose include swimming, brisk walking, and water aerobics. You can also strengthen your muscles through resistance training, like using resistance bands. Make sure that you are not trying any high-impact sports, and also take it easy when you have tender or severely inflamed joints.
You should consult a physical therapist to know how to practice low-impact exercises at home on your own.
All of us need to have enough sleep and that is very much important for people with Rheumatoid arthritis. According to a study of 2018, it has been suggested that poor quality of sleep influences levels of pain and also your ability to move. (2)
You should have at least 8 hours of sleep every night. If you are unable to get enough sleep at night then take a nap during the afternoon. And make sure that if you experience insomnia or if you feel like you might be having sleep apnea, talk to a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
3. Tai Chi
Tai Chi could be one of the remedies that would help with rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. This is a Chinese martial art that combines slow and gentle movements with proper awareness and deep breathing. Tai chi exercises the entire body, mind, and spirit.
A study from the year 2013 found that taking group Tai chi classes might reduce anxiety and also improve social support in patients with Rheumatoid arthritis. (3) According to a research review from the year 2013, Tai Chi might even improve symptoms along with physical functions in patients with osteoarthritis. (4) However, more research is specifically required for tai chi and Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
Keep a strict note to take tai chi lessons only from an experienced and knowledgeable instructor and also do not perform the moves that worsen your pain.
Massage could also help you improve rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. This should be done only by a trained therapist; though you can also try by yourself if you have learned the proper method to a massage for improving the symptoms in Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
According to a study of 2013, it was found that after 1 month, patients with Rheumatoid arthritis who got moderate pressure massage experienced less pain, more grip strength, and an increased range of motion as compared to those who received light pressure massage. (5) If you are experiencing any discomfort or pain during the massage you should talk to your therapist so that they can make adjustments.
One of the common treatments in traditional Chinese medicines is Acupuncture and this helps in relieving pain. This treatment requires thin needles that stimulate specific points on the body. Many studies indicate the benefits of acupuncture for Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
A research review from 2018 has found that acupuncture might improve the quality of life and this could be a great try for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. (6) One more study from the year 2016 found that laser acupuncture that uses lasers rather than needles on various acupuncture points showed a reduction in the inflammation of RA and also reduced disease activity. (7)
Usually, acupuncture has no or few complications. However, you should always check with your acupuncturist before beginning your treatment.
Yoga has several health benefits and it also benefits you if you are dealing with rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. As per a study of 2013, it is found that practicing Iyengar yoga for 6 weeks had improved mood, fatigue, and also chronic pain acceptance in the case of young women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. (8) We must inform you that these improvements remained even 2 months later.
As per a 2017 research review, it is explained that yoga might even reduce the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and also increase the quality of life in the case of RA patients. (9) You should consult with your doctor and your yoga instructor about the best yoga moves for you.
7. Heat And Cold Therapy
Heat and cold therapy could also help you get rid of rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Simply apply an ice pack to your inflamed joint and that would help ease swelling and numb pain. It will also help relax muscle spasms. Research from the year 2013 suggested that cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, might reduce pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. (10) However, more studies in this matter are required.
If you are suffering from tight and aching muscles, you might get relaxation through a relaxing warm bath or a hot shower. Even by applying a hot towel, or a heating pad you can help relax tense muscles and also relieve stiffness and pain. According to a study of the year 2019, it was found that local heat application has reduced stiffness, pain, and disability in patients with knee osteoarthritis. (11) You should always ask your doctor or physical therapist for proper guidance on using heat and cold therapy.
Practicing mindfulness might also help patients with Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Mindfulness helps to relax and cope better with pain and several other symptoms of RA. Mindfulness meditation is a technique that involves being aware of our thoughts, emotions, and breathing.
A research review from the year 2018 found that people with Rheumatoid arthritis who practiced mindfulness meditation showed improvements in their overall well-being and health conditions. (12) Another research review done in 2020 indicated that mindfulness interventions might reduce the intensity of pain, depression, and several other symptoms of RA. (13) However, more research on this is required.
If you have Rheumatoid arthritis, you might find it painful to sit in one position and practice mindfulness meditation. So, you can talk with your instructor if you can try any medications to help you be comfortable.
9. Magnet Therapy
Magnet therapy comes in many forms, such as necklaces, bracelets, pads, inserts, or disks. Most research on magnets involves patients with osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear type of arthritis associated with aging, and not Rheumatoid arthritis.
In patients with hip and knee osteoarthritis, few early studies show that they improved joint pain better than a placebo. We would mention that doctors do not know how exactly magnets might help in relieving pain, and there is no clear evidence that they help patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
10. Lemongrass Essential Oil
There are several essential oils, which might be beneficial because of their anti-inflammatory and many other beneficial properties. Lemongrass oil might specifically help patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
A study from the year 2012 has found that rubbing lemongrass essential oil over your skin would gradually reduce the pain to some extent. (14) Currently, there are only very few studies that exist in lemongrass oil for rheumatoid arthritis. However, more research is required to confirm this effectiveness.
Ensure that you dilute essential oils before using them. You also need to remain cautious while you are starting to use any new essential oil and check that you are not allergic or sensitive to it.
The food we eat not only affects our overall health and well-being but might also help in improving specific medical conditions. In a study of 2014, 24% of people said that their diet affected the symptoms of their Rheumatoid arthritis condition. (15)
A research review from the year 2017 suggests that diet might slow the progression of RA and also decrease damage caused to joints. (16) It is thus recommended to take proper foods, especially those with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties; such as fruits, raw or slightly cooked vegetables, spices like ginger and turmeric, and yogurt. It was also suggested in the review to avoid or limit processed foods, animal products, and sugar.
12. Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics are bacteria that are known to benefit our health. Foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut contain probiotics in them. Probiotic supplements might also be one of the best home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
It was found from a study of 2014 that taking these supplements regularly for 8 weeks on a row reduced inflammation and disease activity.
One study from 2016 even found several beneficial effects of probiotic supplements on levels of insulin in patients with RA. (17)
But a research review from the year 2017 found no difference between a placebo and probiotic supplements on Rheumatoid arthritis. More research is required on the effect of these supplements on Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
13. Thunder God Vine Supplements
Thunder god vine grows in Taiwan and China and it is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is found from research that thunder god vine can be effective for treating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. So, you can use this as a home remedy for rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
As per a study of 2015, it was found that thunder god vine was comparable to the standard drug from RA, i.e. Methotrexate in relieving pain. (18) This study also found that taking both was even more effective.
A research review of 2018 even suggested that thunder god vine supplements might help in reducing inflammation. However, more research in this is required.
Talk to your healthcare provider and assess the benefits on your condition before trying this supplement and also know about any side effects.
14. Evening Primrose Oil Supplements
Certain plant oils, which might reduce stiffness and pain which are associated with Rheumatoid arthritis. One of these plant oils is the Evening primrose oil that contains Gamma-linolenic acid that is an essential fatty acid and it might provide some sort of relief.
One 2016 study has found that taking evening primrose oil along with fish oil might reduce inflammation, pain, and disease activity.
However, as per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, it is stated that more research is required to state the effectiveness of evening primrose oil. (10)
Keep it noted that you might experience side effects like an upset stomach and headache by using this oil. So, always check with your medical professional before taking evening primrose oil supplements.
15. Fish Oil Supplements
You can also try fish oil supplements as one of the home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Some studies show that these supplements might help to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
A research review of 2018 has stated that Omega-3 fatty acids, present in fish oil, helped in reducing RA disease activity markers.
There was also another review from the year 2018 that even indicated that these supplements might reduce inflammation and delay the need for RA medications. However, do not delay talking to your doctor if you experience pain from Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
16. Topical Creams, Gels, And Lotions
There are topical creams, gels, and lotions available for getting rid of RA flare-ups. You need to rub these creams, lotions, or gels onto the skin and help ease painful joints. You might find temporary relief from joint pains as your skin absorbs the ingredients present in the creams, gels, and lotions.
You can also find topical ointments in the form of sprays and patches. These products contain Capsaicin, camphor, salicylates, or menthol, and all these are standard for treating arthritis.
Though there is limited current research on using such treatments for rheumatoid arthritis; still a study of 2017 has found that a gel containing Benzocaine, menthol, and procaine hydrochloride provided temporary pain relief in patients with Rheumatoid arthritis. (20)
Apart from the various home remedies, there are also over-the-counter NSAIDs, which can offer you temporary relief from the pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. Aspirin, Naproxen, and Ibuprofen are some of the NSAIDs.
There are lots of ways for improving the quality of life and for reducing the progression of the disease with RA. One can try out some of the above-mentioned home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. However, you should always seek help from your doctor about the right treatments for you.
Your doctor would help you prepare a management plan that is specific for your symptoms, needs, and situations. You can take the help of your doctor to know the best exercises, remedies, and also take the prescribed medical treatments to deal with rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
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