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19 Natural Remedies to Try for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Managing RA

June 27, 2024

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Photography by Studio Firma/Stocksy United

Photography by Studio Firma/Stocksy United

by Stefanie Remson


Medically Reviewed by:

Stella Bard, MD


by Stefanie Remson


Medically Reviewed by:

Stella Bard, MD


Making changes to your diet and exercise routines, as well as trying complementary therapies such as acupuncture and massage, are all effective natural remedies that can offer many benefits.

Natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can refer to many different remedies that don’t include medications prescribed by a doctor or other medical treatments, such as surgery.

Often natural remedies complement medical treatments and may help relieve symptoms and improve overall well-being. This might include trying complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, or implementing certain lifestyle changes, like new exercise routines or foods.

You might have tried different natural remedies when certain medications aren’t working or to alleviate particular symptoms or the severity of flares.

While many natural remedies are usually helpful for an overall healthy lifestyle, it’s always important to consult your doctor to ensure they’re safe for you and complement your medical treatment plan.

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) released guidelines in 2022 about the role that exercise, rehabilitation, diet, and other integrative interventions play in the management of RA when used alongside medications, such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

Below, we look at a comprehensive list of 19 potential natural remedies for RA, based on these guidelines, the latest research, and first-hand experiences.

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Exercise and movement

The ACR 2022 guidelines state that exercise is more effective than any other lifestyle intervention for improving physical function and decreasing pain. No matter the type, consistently engaging in exercise is strongly recommended.

In “How Movement Became My Medicine,” Liv Loo explains: “I try to avoid thinking of movement as strictly exercise, though. It means so much more. It’s not just about how you’re moving your body. It also affects your mindset. When you need to motivate yourself to move and be consistent, it creates a greater feeling of control.”

As anyone with a chronic condition knows, feeling in control isn’t always easy. No matter what type of movement you’re doing, it can help to build a sense of control and resilience.

So, however you define it, whether you’re moving your body, or trying a new exercise type, know that being consistent can be a very effective natural remedy for RA. You might try using a fitness tracker to help you record your efforts and understand how it’s helping you.

Some movement and exercise types that have been particularly powerful for fellow RA warriors include:

1. Yoga

For many people, yoga offers more than benefits for your physical health. Rooted in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, it provides a spiritual and mindful element that’s attractive to many participants. It’s a good type of exercise to practice at home and can easily be adapted to different needs.

You could try this antirheumatic yoga series for gentle joint support.

“Yoga is my number one aid because it helps with everything: mind, body and energy.”

— Eileen, diagnosed with RA in 1999

2. Pilates

Pilates focuses on balance, posture, strength, and flexibility.

For Alexis Rochester, who was diagnosed with RA in 1997, Reformer Pilates has been the perfect exercise to easily modify to her changing needs, get stiff joints moving, and get similar effects to aerobic movement without the impact on her joints.

3. Strength training

We lose muscle as we age, and for women, this can be exacerbated by menopause. Strength training can be the best way to regain muscle and prevent further loss.

Fellow RA warrior Victoria Stokes, explains, “Far from being something I shouldn’t try due to my diagnosis, my doctor explained that strength training is actually a great activity for people with arthritis, as it strengthens the muscles around the joints, lessening the impact on them.”

This Arthritis Foundation resource has some great tips for trying strength training.

4. Low-intensity steady-state cardio, or LISS

LISS can be good for those living with arthritis as it can be less impactful on joints. In comparison to high intensity exercise that might involve jumping and running, LISS might include exercises like walking and swimming that can be done at a lower intensity.

“I spend time in the shallow end of the pool, work on my water confidence, and plan on taking more lessons because movement is so important for taking care of ourselves.”

— Shuntel Hines, living with RA

Read how swimming helped Shuntel to feel more like herself again after an RA diagnosis.

“Exercise, mainly low impact rowing and cycling, have helped me a lot with overall mobility and weight management. When I was diagnosed I was 400 pounds, and decreasing my body weight gave my joints a lot of relief.”

— Courtney, diagnosed with RA in 2012

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Diet and nutrition

We all know what we eat makes a difference. Healthy eating can feel difficult to implement, whether due to cost, time, or personal preferences. But I promise it’s more tasty than you could ever imagine! And it doesn’t need to take a lot of time or break the bank.

Healthy eating has many positive impacts, from avoiding certain RA triggers to maintaining a healthy weight for joint and bone health.

“I have found that what I eat affects my RA more than anything else.”

— Morgan, diagnosed with RA in 2018

5. Anti-inflammatory foods

You might have heard of anti-inflammatory foods. But, what are they? These are foods that can help decrease chronic inflammation. Amazing, right?

Many anti-inflammatory foods are also high in antioxidants and other essential vitamins and minerals. Some anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • berries
  • grapes
  • cherries
  • tomatoes
  • avocados
  • broccoli
  • peppers
  • mushrooms
  • turmeric
  • dark chocolate
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fatty fish

You could try these 6 anti-inflammatory breakfasts for a great way to start your day.

6. The Mediterranean diet

Although there’s not one specific diet recommended for people living with RA, the ACR does support trying the Mediterranean diet. This diet includes foods traditionally from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy.

The Mediterranean diet is one example of an anti-inflammatory diet. It’s largely made up of plant-based foods and healthy fats. It might consist of:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • healthy fats, like olive oil, and avoiding butter and margarine
  • legumes
  • fish and seafood
  • limited dairy
  • choosing poultry and eggs as protein sources over red meat
  • using herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt

7. Avoiding dietary triggers, including sugar intake

It can take time to understand your own personal dietary triggers for RA. Some common foods that you might want to avoid are highly processed foods and foods high in added sugar.

While natural sugars in foods like fruit are good for your body, added sugars in foods such as doughnuts and cakes are linked to increased inflammation.

“Another trigger for me is excess sugar. A little bit here or there doesn’t worsen my symptoms, but eating sweets with a lot of sugar will always contribute to more pain and swelling the next day.”

— Alexis Rochester, diagnosed with RA in 1997

Try Alexis’ low sugar peanut butter cookies.

8. What you drink counts, too

It’s easy to forget that what you drink can affect your health. Many sodas contain a lot of added sugars that don’t provide any nutritional benefits and could trigger inflammation.

Milk and other dairy products can be a trigger for some people, but research seems to be inconclusive.

But nothing ever beats the wonders of water to help you stay hydrated and keep your joints well lubricated. Teas can be a good way to increase your water intake, and most are beneficial. Green tea is an anti-inflammatory drink which might be good to try!

9. Supplements

The latest ACR guidelines don’t specifically support the use of supplements. But if you have certain dietary preferences or allergies, such as being vegetarian or gluten-free, some supplements can be important to make up any missing nutrients.

Magnesium has certain benefits for RA, including strengthening bones, and it’s thought many people don’t get enough.

You might consider taking a multivitamin, but you should speak with your doctor to determine what supplement might be best for you.

Rehabilitation, rest, and self-care

10. Sleep hygiene

Research suggests that people living with RA may have poor sleep quality. Sleep loss can interfere with your immune system and aggravate RA symptoms, not to mention contribute to overall fatigue.

Sleep hygiene refers to habits that promote higher-quality and more restful sleep, which can be critical for managing RA and its symptoms.

Some good sleep hygiene tips include sticking with a consistent sleep-wake schedule and avoiding stimulants like caffeine before bed. For more tips, you can read here.

11. Mindfulness, meditation, and music

Mindfulness is a practice, trait, or technique that encourages awareness of the present moment. This might involve focusing on your current sensations to take notice of your mind, body, and surroundings.

Examples of mindful practices include meditation, journaling, and hobbies like gardening or listening to music.

“For me, music is like an oasis in a desert of discomfort. It has always served as a soothing balm for my aching joints, in addition to being a source of happiness and inspiration.”

— Ashley Boynes-Shuck, Bezzy RA guide, living with RA

Discover why the medicinal magic of music works so well for Ashley.

Research suggests that mindfulness interventions can improve pain intensity, depression, and certain symptoms in patients with RA. However, larger and higher quality studies are still needed.

12. Massage

Massage can be an effective therapy to improve blood circulation and alleviate certain symptoms. A 2022 study showed that Swedish massage reduced pain up to 1 month after treatment for those living with RA. It also showed a decreased need to use pain relievers as frequently during this same time period.

There’s no one specific type of massage that is recommended for people living with RA, but this resource can help you learn about different types of massage and their benefits for RA.

13. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the practice of piercing the skin at specific trigger points with very small needles to treat a variety of issues. It’s a traditional Chinese medicine practice that’s thought to help regulate one’s qi (pronounced “chee”), or energy.

It’s one of my favorite natural remedies for RA, and you can read more about my experience here.

14. Spa treatments, including pedicures

There are a number of different therapies you could try at your local spa, including hot stone treatment and hydrotherapy. It’s important to find a reputable organization with trained professionals who understand the your condition.

“Over time, pain-relieving spa treatments have become an extremely important tool for me to connect with my body and manage some of my symptoms.”

— Fiske Nyirongo, diagnosed with RA in 2012

Check out Fiske’s “5 Tips for Pain Relieving Spa Treatments with Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

Other treatments, including manicures, pedicures, and brow and eyelash services, are also wonderful self-care rituals to implement.

15. Physical and occupational therapy

Comprehensive physical and occupational therapy are both recommended as rehabilitation interventions by the latest ACR guidelines.

These therapies focus on improving your range of movement so you can accomplish everyday activities. They often work in close collaboration with doctors, and you might be recommended for treatment.

“Physical therapy worked so well for my shoulder pain that I recently decided to try it again to address my chronic hip and neck pain from RA.”

— Katy Anderson, diagnosed with RA in 2018

Read Katy’s experience with physical therapy.

16. Aromatherapy and essential oils

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to promote health and well-being.

There are very few studies on aromatherapy and essential oils for RA. One systematic review of 13 studies looking at aromatherapy for rheumatic diseases, including RA, suggested that it can be effective, but they also noted a number of study limitations.

Nevertheless, aromatherapy can be a beneficial mindful practice, and different scents might have different effects, such as lavender for better sleep and vanilla for relaxation.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils, and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

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Other natural remedies to try

17. Compression

Trevor Petrie, certified hand therapist from Grace & Able, explains that “gentle compression supports joints, boosts circulation, pushes excess fluid through the lymphatic system, and confuses pain signals — all of which combine to reduce arthritic pain and swelling.”

You can try different types of compression garments, including socks, sleeves, and gloves. If you’re trying them for the first time, these tips from an occupational therapist can help.

“Compression sleeves and gloves help my RA related joint pain and swelling. They are effective, affordable and noninvasive options I can use in addition to my traditional RA treatments.”

— Sarah Dillingham, CEO of Grace & Able, diagnosed with RA in 2021

18. Splinting, bracing, and taping

Splinting, bracing, and taping are also effective at reducing joint pain and swelling caused by RA, and they are all recommended by the latest ACR guidelines.

These therapies sometimes may require a medical professional’s supervision to check they’re fitting correctly.

Fellow RA warrior Effie Koliopoulos includes three different types of splints in her top products to help her hands.

“With KT tape [taping], I’m able to control the amount of compression and support I get and it’s focused on the area I need it most.”

— Chelsea, diagnosed with RA in 2020

19. Heat and cold therapies

Both heat and cold therapies can be effective for RA. There are different types, but essentially they involve applying heat or cold to a particular body part or area.

Usually heat can help relieve aching joints, whereas cold helps swollen joints.

They are remedies that are cost-effective, convenient, and accessible for most people. You can use a bag of frozen peas, or a hot water bottle!

“Infrared heat has been my go-to for RA pain relief. I can’t imagine my life without it now.”

— Laura Jean, diagnosed with RA in 2018

“Compression gloves help my hand pain and swelling a lot. I also used splints, heat, and ice, depending on the day and how I’m feeling. Some of these are more time consuming than others, and sometimes this affects what I use.”

— Alice, diagnosed with RA in 2021

What do others living with RA say about natural remedies?

Like most things, a combination of remedies is usually most effective when it comes to managing any health condition.

“I use a lot of natural remedies to manage my RA pain. Some of the main ones are: essential oils, Grace and Able compression gloves, ice therapy, massage, and physical therapy.”

— Jenni, diagnosed with RA in 2012

“Monthly massages and regular movement help me the most. When it comes to movement anything from a short walk down the street, riding my trike, or exercising in the pool. Movement is my medicine.”

— Colleen, diagnosed with RA in 1989

“I sleep with a heating pad, exercise 2 days a week, and make healthier food choices.”

— Zena, diagnosed with RA in 2008

“I like ice and massage. Essential oils and heat don’t work for me.”

— Sarah, diagnosed with RA in 2011

“Both exercise and meditation have definitely improved my day-to-day RA symptoms.”

— Meg, diagnosed with RA in 2016

“I have found the right nutrition and exercise to decrease my joint swelling.”

— Josie, diagnosed with RA in 2020

“My top 2 alternative treatments to manage RA pain are heat and braces. I put my heating pad in my easy chair so that the top touches my neck and shoulders.”

— Heidi, diagnosed with RA in 2012

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The takeaway

Natural remedies for RA can help manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. There are many different types to try so you can figure out which might work best for you.

It’s important to remember that these are not a replacement for medications or other medical treatments. They cannot slow or stop the progression of RA, whereas medications sometimes can.

For natural remedies to be most effective, they should be used in conjunction with medications and your treatment plan. It’s always best to discuss any new remedies you’re thinking of trying with your doctor.

What’s your favorite natural remedy? Let us know!

Medically reviewed on June 27, 2024

7 Sources

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About the author

Stefanie Remson

Ms. Stefanie Remson MSN, APRN, FNP-BC is the CEO and founder of She is a family nurse practitioner and is a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient herself. She has spent her entire life serving the community as a healthcare professional and has refused to let RA slow her down. She has worked with The Arthritis Foundation, The Lupus Foundation of America, Healthline, Grace and Able, Arthritis Life, Musculo, Aila, and HopeX. You can learn more at her website and on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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