When you have a medical condition, you may be overwhelmed by all of the possible treatments to ease your pain and symptoms. Which option will you choose?
The truth is that it is always your physician who can help guide you to the right choice.
However, even with their counsel, you may be left with a decision. The following article is intended to help you make the decision about your treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. There are a number of different treatments that are available.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. The usual job of the immune system is to put a stop to harmful entities that can do some sort of damage to your body.
However, sometimes it reacts to things which are actually innocuous.
When the immune system attacks the joints, it results in swelling of their inner lining. This can result in pain in and around your joints. This happens even though there is no offending substance in the joints.
If you have this inflammation over an extended period of time, it can damage your cartilage.
It can also damage the bones themselves. Joint deformity can result from this. As joint damage can occur in a brief period of time, the Arthritis Foundation recommends that you get treatment as early on as possible.
RA usually causes inflammation in specific joints. These are the joints of the:
RA can also have effects on other body systems. It can be a generalized sort of condition.
You Need Early Treatment
There is no cure for RA according to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. However, you need to pursue early treatment.
This will not only help relieve your pain but also it will aid in preventing further damage to your joints.
The goals of treatment focus on:
- Reducing inflammation
- Preventing further damage
- Improving your quality of life
- Reducing side effects
Even though there is no cure for RA, your body can go into remission from the illness.
Taking Medication to Control Your RA
Your physician can prescribe for you medication to reduce the inflammation and relieve the joint pain that is involved.
You may need to start taking a low dosage of the medication, due to the serious side effects that it can have.
The following medications are typically prescribed for RA patients:
NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs relieve pain and diminish inflammation.
Typically, they don’t require a prescription, unless you are going to be taking a very large dosage.
Ibuprofen and naproxen are two typical NSAIDs. The weak NSAIDs don’t have so many side effects.
However, they only manage symptoms. They will not aid in slowing up the disease activity.
Stronger NSAIDs are available with a prescription from your doctor. However, they can have some severe side effects, including:
- Liver damage
- Ringing in your ears
- Heart problems
- Stomach problems
- Kidney damage
NSAIDs are available both in oral form or as a patch or cream that can be applied topically.
These medicines act in the body in a way similar to hormones. They may slow the progression of the illness and halt the immune system from its onslaught.
Side effects can be severe from these drugs. They include:
- Leg swelling
- Weight gain
- Increased blood pressure
- Mood swings
Long-term side effects can include:
- High blood sugar
- Increased risk of infection
- Calcium deficiency
- Easy bruising
These medications are disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. They actually aid in preventing the immune system from attacking healthy tissue. They can protect joints and tissue from the permanent damage of RA.
Types of DMARDs include:
There is a subset of these medications that are called biologic response modifiers.
These medications focus on particular parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation. Biologic agents include abatacept and anakinra.
These are another type of DMARD. They act against the pathways that increase the body’s immune response.
Using Physical Therapy to Combat RA
Exercise for the RA patient is just as important as medications. However, if you are really suffering from pain, then it can be difficult to find the right exercise regimen.
A physical therapist can help you pursue a therapeutic exercise routine. It is important to design a safe and effective routine that will keep your joints flexible and in good condition.
Chiropractic Treatment can Ease RA
Many times, medication and exercise alone will not ease the pain associated with RA. Many people pursue chiropractic treatment.
Some experts caution that this treatment might worsen RA pain, but many swear by the results that they have gotten through it.
You should be careful not to receive the treatment while you are actively suffering from swelling in your joints.
Since this treatment manipulates these areas, it could actually worsen the problem.
The real benefit that people get from this sort of treatment is a better alignment. Your chiropractor can help specifically with this issue.
If All Else Fails – Surgery
Surgery is a drastic treatment for RA. It is usually only performed on people who have severe joint damage. The medication itself cannot restore damage caused by the illness.
There are three different surgical procedures that can be used to treat RA. They are:
The surgeon will remove part of the damaged joint and insert a prosthetic in its place.
If a replacement is not possible, then your surgeon can fuse and realign your joints.
Over a period of time, inflammation can damage your tendons. Your surgeon can repair the damage to the tendons. This will strengthen your joints.
Natural Treatments for RA
According to Dr. Axe, arthritis medication can come along with many serious side effects.
He recommends that you should use natural treatments when possible. Here are some of the treatments that he suggests:
1. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet.
Foods with a lot of antioxidants in them and unprocessed foods can help control RA. A healthy diet for arthritis includes foods that are high in omega-3s.
There are also specific foods that can cause inflammation. These include added sugar, artificial ingredients, bad fats, and fast food.
2. Get Exercise.
Even though you may find it difficult to be active when you are suffering from symptoms, staying active is very important for controlling symptoms and regulating joint inflammation. Your joint pain can actually worsen if you become inactive over a long period of time.
The best sort of exercise for people with RA is low-impact exercise. Activities such as cycling and swimming are good examples of this.
Yoga is also excellent. Ideally, you should combine aerobic exercise with strength training. Stretching is also important to enhance flexibility.
3. Manage Stress and Get Adequate Sleep.
If you get adequate sleep and reduce your emotional stress, then this will allow your joints to heal more readily. Fatigue and stress have a tendency to contribute to complications.
Research indicates that relaxation techniques, such as yoga, can help with the painful episodes of RA.
In fact, the Arthritis Foundation suggests that maintaining a positive attitude and receiving support from your loved ones can significantly help you cope with your RA pain.
4. Control Your Pain Naturally.
Research indicates that natural pain-reducing techniques can help manage RA symptoms.
You can try massage therapy, acupuncture, essential oils, or heat/ice treatments. Many of these treatments also help relieve your stress.
Essential oils, such as peppermint oil, can help RA. You could also use skin salves that are made of salicylates or capsaicin.
PubMed has an interesting article that speaks about research on topical therapy for arthritis.
5. Try Natural Supplementation.
There are supplements that can aid in reducing arthritis pain. These include:
- Turmeric and Ginger Extract
- Omega-3 Fish Oils
- Proteolytic Enzymes
About one-quarter of the adults in our country have some sort of arthritis. This is a whopping 23 percent of the adult population.
RA is the sort that most people have. The problem is that there is no cure for the disease.
However, with the help of your physician and some lifestyle changes, you can control the symptoms that may afflict you.
While this article’s original focus is on the best treatment for RA, we have seen that it is a somewhat complex issue.
For this reason, you really need to speak to your physician about the best option for treatment for your individual case.
What does seem to be the case is that the medications for RA treatment tend to have a lot of serious side effects.
For this reason, it is always better to attempt to make lifestyle changes and apply natural treatments to ease your symptoms.
You should be cautious, however. If you actually need medication, then you should not deny yourself of it because inflammation over an extended period of time may worsen your joints.