Patient Blogs | Rheumatoid Arthritis
5 Complementary Therapies That Help Calm My RA
photo of man relaxing in hot tub

There are many paths of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and trying to decide which ones to try can feel overwhelming sometimes. When I was first diagnosed, everyone from the mailman to my mom was suggesting something for me to try. (If you have RA, you definitely know what I’m talking about.) Even now, I don’t share that I have RA in a conversation with someone I don’t know because there’s a 99% chance they are going to suggest something like fish oil pills to miraculously cure me for good. Bless their hearts, it’s coming from a good place.

I don’t know much for certain when it relates to arthritis -- it is such a difficult condition to figure out. We can all have the same disease and can all be different in how we experience it. However, I am as close to certain as I can be that treating the disease with a multi-faceted approach is more effective than monotherapy. It is important to try to pursue relief via multiple pathways.

I have tried many things to get relief. Some worked, some didn’t. Here are a few paths I’ve walked down. (Not all of them will be right for everyone, so talk to your doctor first.)

Hot tub. I had a very generous friend who made his hot tub available for me to use when I was having bad flare-ups. The hot tub was amazingly effective for me 10 years ago, and it still is today when I am having a flare.

Physical therapy. I have developed a close relationship with a physical therapist who took an interest in trying to discover ways to help me with RA. (I believe that relationships and trust are so important in my journey with RA). My physical therapist has tried many stretches, strengthening exercises, ice treatments, heat treatments, Kinesio tape, and even dry needling to help me get relief. I love that he is willing to do research and gain knowledge about RA on my behalf. For me, two things have helped the most: the Kinesio tape and the dry needling. The tape has been effective in supporting my joints and allowing me to have the range of motion that my weak joint (mostly shoulder) was preventing. The dry needling has helped me recover faster from swelling and discomfort after overuse.

Massage. I occasionally enjoy a massage, but I have also had some negative results from massage when I didn’t drink enough water and stay moving afterward. Also, when I get a massage, I have to tell the therapist not to do anything to my toes. I didn’t know to say anything the first time, and I paid the price in pain when she worked on my toes.

CBD oil. I have experienced relief from CBD salve on my smaller joints, but it has not been effective on larger areas like my shoulders and back.

Chiropractic. I have been a bit late to the chiropractor game, but over the last year I have had a lot of success with regularly scheduled chiropractor appointments. I suffered a lower back injury last year and began seeing a chiropractor  who did heat and ultrasound therapy as well as adjustments and strengthening treatments. If you’re interested in trying chiropractic, be sure to talk to your doctor about it first and look for a chiropractor who knows how to treat patients with RA. You’ll want to see a chiropractor who will listen and treat you with more than just adjustments.

I hope you get some ideas from my experiences. I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind about using some complementary therapies to help you feel your best. With so much out there, it can be overwhelming to try to decide what therapies to try. I stick with listening to people who have shown that they care about me enough to spend the time pursuing treatments with me. There’s a mix of trust, convenience, and effectiveness that all needs to be there for you to get the kind of effective relief you are pursuing. We only get this one life and this one body to live it in, so keep trying because it’s worth it!

Photo credit: andresr/E+ via Getty Images

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Andy Pendergrass

Andy Pendergrass

Diagnosed since 2011

Andy Pendergrass is an active 33-year-old certified financial planner who has been living with rheumatoid arthritis for 10 years. His passion is being healthy, active, and as pain free as possible so that he can maximize the fun with his wife and two sons. Andy stays in shape with CrossFit, Peloton, and soccer and loves playing golf and bow hunting. Follow Andy's journey on Instagram.

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