Alternative Arthritis Treatments - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on September 11, 2013

Alternative Arthritis Treatments

While traditional medicine should always be the first course of action for managing a health issue, everyone has their own secret remedies that they would swear by. From a secret family recipe for chicken noodle soup to a spray of Windex—there are some seemingly wacky ways to treat just about any ailment.

For those with rheumatoid arthritis, traditional treatments such as physical therapy and cortisone injections might not always provide all of the relief you’re looking for. But there are some other, somewhat surprising, ways you can help reduce flare-ups and relieve swelling and discomfort.

Here are some alternative treatments: 

  • Green Tea: Considering this popular tea contains a variety of nutrients and minerals our bodies love, it’s no surprise that it’s well respected in the health community. And since green tea contains polyphenols, which is believed by doctors to influence the immune system by decreasing substances that destroys the joints, it’s great for those with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Pomegranates: A 12-week study showed that this particular fruit could decrease joint tenderness by 62 percent. This is largely due to the fruit’s high concentration of antioxidants, which are known to reduce inflammation and repair cell damage.
  • Fish Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids win again. You’ve probably heard about these healthy fatty acids before, but they’re particularly great for those with arthritis since they help the body fight inflammation and relieve tenderness and pain. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, or from a dietary supplement. However, do take caution if you take blood thinners or blood pressure medication; fish oil may increase their side effects.
  • Acupuncture: This ancient Eastern healing technique uses thin needles to stimulate certain pressure points in the body to promote the “flow of life force” through the body. While acupuncture is often recommended to treat a variety of ailments, it is also known to release endorphins and reduce pain as a result.
  • Hot/Cold Compresses: Cold compresses are good for reducing swelling in your joints and should be applied for 15 minutes at a time with at least a 30-minute break in between treatments. Hot compresses are good for relaxing your muscles and stimulating blood flow. Use a moist heating pad or a warm damp towel.
  • Exercise: Physical activity is extremely important for those with arthritis, since it’s important to maintain your flexibility and strength—especially in inflamed joints. Try low-impact exercises, such as walking, biking, yoga, tai chi, and aquatic exercises. Be careful not to overdo it, though!
  • Stress Management: Deep abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation—whatever you like to try, many doctors recommend relaxation techniques to help reduce your stress, improve sleep, and pain perception. 

However, alternative measures should never replace the therapy prescribed by your physician. “Interactions between ‘natural’ therapies and conventional therapies can occur, and, there may be times when exercise or other alternative measures should be avoided, be sure to always discuss what you are doing with your rheumatologist, no matter how ‘wacky’ you may think it to be,” says Martin J. Bergman, M.D., chief of the Section of Rheumatology at Taylor Hospital. “It’s always better to ask than to find out the hard way that something was a bad idea.” 

For a referral to a Crozer-Keystone rheumatologist who’s right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit

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