Rheumatoid Arthritis (cont.)
What Is the Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Despite significant advances in treatment over the past decades, rheumatoid arthritis continues to be an incurable disease. While there is no cure, the goal of disease remission is frequently attainable. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has two major components:
- reducing inflammation and preventing joint damage and disability and
- relieving symptoms, especially pain. Although achieving the first goal may accomplish the second, many people need separate treatment for symptoms at some point in the disease.
Are There Any Home Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If someone has joint pain or stiffness, he or she may think it is just a normal part of getting older and that there is nothing he or she can do. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are several options for medical treatment and even more to help prevent further joint damage and symptoms. Discuss these measures with a health-care professional to find ways to make them work.
- First of all, don't delay diagnosis or treatment. Having a correct diagnosis allows a health-care professional to form a treatment plan. Delaying treatment increases the risk that the arthritis will get worse and that serious complications will develop.
- Learn everything about rheumatoid arthritis. If there are any questions, ask a health-care professional. If any questions remain, ask the health-care professional to provide reliable sources of information. Some resources are listed later in this article.
- Know the pros and cons of all of treatment options, and work with a health-care professional to decide on the best options. Understand the treatment plan and what benefits and side effects can be expected.
- Learn about the symptoms. If someone has rheumatoid arthritis, he or she probably has both general discomfort (aches and stiffness) and pain in specific joints. Learn to tell the difference. Pain in a specific joint often results from overuse. Pain in a joint that lasts more than one hour after an activity probably means that that activity was too stressful and should be avoided.
Increase physical activity.
- Exercise is a very important part of a complete treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis, particularly once the joint inflammation is controlled.
- It may seem that exercise is bad for arthritic joints, but research overwhelmingly shows that exercise in rheumatoid arthritis helps reduce pain and fatigue, increases range of motion (flexibility) and strength, and helps someone feel better overall.
- Three types of exercise are helpful: range-of-motion exercise, strengthening exercise, and endurance (cardio or aerobic) exercise. Water aerobics are an excellent choice because they increase range of motion and endurance while keeping weight off the joints of the lower body.
- Talk to a health-care professional about how to start an exercise program and what types of exercises to do and avoid. He or she may refer a patient to a physical therapist or exercise specialist.
Protect the joints.
- At least once a day, move each joint through its full range of motion. Do not overdo or move the joint in any way that causes pain. This helps keep freedom of motion in the joints.
- Avoid situations that are likely to strain the joints. Remember that the joints are more susceptible to damage when they are swollen and painful. Avoid stressing the joint at such times.
- Learn proper body mechanics. This means learning to use and move the body in ways that reduce the stress on the joints. This is especially true for the hands, since it's important to protect their flexibility. Ask a health-care professional or physical therapist for suggestions on how to avoid joint strain.
- Be creative in thinking up new ways to carry out tasks and activities.
- Use the strongest joint available for the job. Avoid using the fingers, for example, if the wrist can do the job.
- Take advantage of assistive devices to carry out activities that have become difficult. These simple devices can work very well to reduce stress on certain joints. Talk to a health-care professional or physical and/or occupational therapist about this.
Alternate periods of rest and activity through the day. This is called pacing.
- General rest is an important part of rheumatoid arthritis treatment, but avoid keeping the joints in the same position for too long a time. Get up and move; use the hands.
- Holding the joint still for long periods just promotes stiffness. Keep the joints moving to keep them flexible.
- If it's necessary to sit for long periods, say at work or while traveling, take a short break every hour; stand up, walk around, stretch, and flex the joints.
- Rest before becoming tired or sore.
Take part in enjoyable activities every day.
- This can improve one's outlook and help put the arthritis in perspective.
- Some enjoyable activities are even helpful for the joints, such as walking, swimming, and light gardening.
Take steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
- If someone is overweight, losing weight not only helps him or her look better, it helps the joints feel better. Reducing weight helps take stress off joints and reduces pain. Maintaining a healthy weight also can help prevent other serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Eat a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. Some research has suggested that a fish-grain diet can decrease the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis while a Western high-fat diet might increase the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis. An adequate amount of dietary vitamin C and calcium can be helpful for those affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
- Quit smoking. This will reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis complications. This will also reduce the risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and other breathing problems as well as heart disease. Smoking, in fact, has been associated with an increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Get the most out of treatment.
- Take medications as directed. If a patient thinks a medication is not working or is causing side effects, talk to a health-care professional before stopping the medication. Some medications take weeks or even months to reach their full benefit. In a few cases, stopping a medication suddenly can even be dangerous.
- Taking a warm bath before bed can help with relaxation. Massages feel good and may help increase energy and flexibility. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to a joint to reduce pain and swelling. (Keep a reusable ice pack in the freezer or try using a bag of frozen vegetables.)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2015
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