Rheumatoid Arthritis is a type of chronic inflammatory condition that affects the joints. This condition can also affect other tissues in the body.
While the causes of rheumatoid arthritis are not known, some scientists and doctors feel that smoking increases both the risk and the severity of rheumatoid arthritis.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis develop in a gradual manner and due to this, it is not possible 100% of the time to know exactly when the disease developed originally.
There are many sufferers who experience symptoms on a continual basis. Other people tend to have symptoms that for some reason completely resolve and still others alternate between painful symptoms and periods where they seem to be free of symptoms. The severity, onset and symptoms of RA can vary from person to person.
Treatment has a key role in the control of the inflammation as well as in minimizing the damage to the joints. Any treatment must be tailored to fit each individual case and things such as the severity of the disease and the general medical history of each case is taken into consideration while planning a treatment.
Treatments all include differing medicines but we are not going to talk about that today. For the purposes of this article we will be focusing solely on the physical measures that can be taken.
All of the measures that you will see here will be non-pharmacological ones. There are a wide variety of this type of treatment.
Education and Counseling
This type of treatment can help you to have a better grasp of what the condition is, what it entails and how to cope with it. Treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback sometimes aide in controlling symptoms.
These measures are able to reduce both pain and disability while improving the self esteem of the patient.
Programs on such topics as social support, self-management, psychotherapy and biofeedback are all offered by the Arthritis Foundation. Services such as these are also offered by many clinics and hospitals across the nation.
They have shown to be able to reduce pain and depression as well as disability when people are affected with the disease and also to allow them to regain some sort of control over their lives.
One of the common symptoms of RA is fatigue. While the inflamed joints need to be rested, physical fitness is not to be ignored.
There have been several studies that have shown that with higher levels of physical fitness, patients saw an improved quality of sleep which resulted in a lower amount of fatigue.
Before beginning a fitness regimen patients are always advised to consult their physicians regarding the types and amounts of exercises that should be done.
Stiffness and pain can often encourage RA sufferers to become inactive. However, the more a person is inactive, the faster the joints will stiffen up leading to a loss of motion in the joints, loss of muscle strength and contractions.
This weakness in turn leads to decreased joint stability while increasing the levels of fatigue.
Occupational and Physical Therapy
These types of therapy can be very beneficial and can reduce inflammation, relieve pain and assist in the preservation of joint structure and function.
Some of the types of therapy include:
- Application of ice or heat to relieve stiffness or pain
- Ultrasounds which can reduce the inflammation of the tenosynovitis (sheaths surrounding the tendons)
- Active and passive exercises that can maintain and even improve the range of motion in the joints
- Rest splinting can improve joint function and reduce joint pain
- Assisting devices such as finger splints can both prevent deformity and improve function
- relaxation techniques that can assist in relieving secondary muscle spasms
Nutrition and Dietary Therapy
People suffering from active RA can sometimes not feel like eating. Dietary therapy can help to ensure that patients get adequate nutrients and calories.
People with RA have a higher chance of developing things like coronary artery disease High cholesterol is one of the risk factors that can be changed simply by altering a person’s diet.
Nutritionists can help to create a dietary regimen that will be beneficial to both cholesterol levels and the pain and inflammation associated with RA.
The physical measures discussed here today are only a small sample of the options that are available for people who suffer from RA.
As always, for more information and to determine a plan of attack, you need to talk to your physician.
Ask him what the statistics are for people treating RA with physical measures are versus people relying solely on medicine are. You may be shocked to hear the answer.