Because there is no cure, it is critical that it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages, to prevent the permanent joint damage that is often associated with RA. Symptoms to watch out for include warm, swollen joints, pain that can often be symmetrical, feeling feverish or weak, and stiffness for an extended period after resting. For an RA patient, pain management becomes a lifestyle.
Before performing the small tasks of everyday life that you normally wouldn’t think twice about, make small modifications to protect your joints. For example, instead of lifting a heavy pot while cooking, slide it across the counter. Use ergonomic tools whenever possible. Using a cane can move up to 20 percent of your body weight off of your legs, hips, knees and ankles.
A sedentary lifestyle can worsen pain, but getting enough rest is important, too. Moderate, low-impact exercise like swimming, cycling, walking or yoga can do wonders in keeping pain away.As long as you are not experiencing pain, you should stretch your joints daily. A physical therapist can provide a stretching routine customized for pain management, as well as trigger-point massage therapy.
Begin with shorter exercise sessions until you know how it will affect you, don’t overdo it and do not exercise when you are experiencing pain. Break chores and activities up into sections—get your 30 minutes of exercise in 10-minute increments throughout the day. Plan ahead to allow yourself breaks or to leave a task until the next day.
Excess body weight places greater stress on weight-bearing joints, and fatty tissue can lead to increased inflammation, so maintaining a healthy weight is essential for RA. An anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things for RA patients.
Use Heat Therapy
Moist heat seems to be most effective in providing relief from RA pain. Since RA patients tend to experience greater stiffness in their joints in the morning, taking a hot bath or shower can help to loosen up joints. Moist heating pads, which can be found in most pharmacies, also can help. In addition, paraffin wax baths or soaking tubs for hands and feet can ease inflammation.
Ease the Mind
Chronic pain can become an emotional issue, and just as physical exercise can reduce pain so too can mental exerciseslike meditation, relaxation exercises and controlled breathing.Distraction—whether with music, food, art therapy, writing or journaling, or other creative outlets—and the power of positive thinking has been shown to be influential in pain management and can decrease associated anxiety.
See a Doctor
In the treatment of RA, doctors may use a combination of conventional and alternative methods. Prescription medications such as NSAIDs, corticosteroids and analgesics can be used to treat symptoms. An emerging group of medicines called disease-modifying drugs can slow and even stop joint destruction and dramatically improve patient outcomes.
Over time, the deterioration of weight-bearing joints mayrequire joint replacement surgery. Patients should talk to their doctor about the safest prosthetic joint available. This can help them avoid painful complications like metal poisoning, premature implant failure and revision surgery, which can result when metal-on-metal hip implants are used. Stryker Orthopaedics and DePuy Orthopaedics recalled their metal-on-metal designs after serious complications resulted.
Linda Grayling is a writer for Drugwatch.com. She enjoys keeping up with the latest news in the medical field. Feel Free to Follow Drugwatch on Twitter.