Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that is characterized by inflammation of the joints that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and decreased function that may interfere with the ability to perform everyday activities.
Because RA is a chronic condition, treatment often incorporates various pain management techniques.
Some RA patients are prone to worsened symptoms at particular times of the day, but flare-ups can occur out of the blue. Swelling and pain are usually worse after resting, which is why many RA patients experience greater stiffness in their joints in the morning. Trying something as simple as starting the day with a hot shower or bath can loosen up joints for the day.
Patients report that moist heating pads, available at most pharmacies, are particularly helpful in relieving RA pain. Many keep these on hand to be ready for painful flare-ups. Paraffin wax or soaking tubs for the hands and feet are relatively inexpensive and also have been successful in relieving joint pain.
When managing chronic pain, mental exercises have proven to be immensely effective. Patients can try meditation, controlled breathing and relaxation exercises. Creative outlets also can help, like listening to music or repeating a mantra. Keeping a positive attitude and practicing positive self-talk can be very effective in reducing pain.
Preserving Healthy Joints
Preserving joints with a supportive, healthy lifestyle is equally important. Extra body weight increases pressure on the joints, and fatty tissue may increase inflammation. Losing extra weight and eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help.
Exercising and stretching were once thought to worsen pain, but overwhelming evidence now suggests they are critical to arthritis management. Patients should not exercise when experiencing pain, and should start slowly with low-impact exercises like cycling, swimming or yoga.
Small modifications to everyday activities can help preserve healthy joints and keep patients pain-free. Using ergonomic tools and maybe even using a cane—which can take up to 20 percent of body weight off of hips, knees and ankles—also can help.
RA is not only chronic; it is also a disease that gets progressively worse over time. Even with effective management, weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips may require replacement surgery in the future.
It is important that patients discuss the safest prosthetic joint options with their doctor to avoid painful complications like those associated with defective metal-on-metal hip implants. Tens of thousands of patients who received problematic implants from DePuy Orthopaedics and Stryker Orthopaedics are left to deal with severe pain and the likelihood of revision surgery just a few years after their original surgery.
Linda Grayling is a writer for Drugwatch.com. She enjoys keeping up with the latest news in the medical field.