How to take care of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are very different diseases managed very differently, but are often confused when people come in to my Northern Beaches office to talk about their sore joints.
Although both cause pain and damage to joints, the damage occurs for different reasons.
How are rheumatoid and osteoarthritis different?
Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis because in rheumatoid arthritis it is the faulty immune system that causes inflammation, while in osteoarthritis the joints become damaged through wear and tear.
Your immune system is an intricate mechanism that enables your body to defend itself against bacteria, viruses and other organisms that want to invade it. A healthy immune system knows which of these are foreign to the body and which ones belong, the rheumatoid arthritis sufferer’s does not. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system sends antibodies to the lining of your joints, where instead of attacking harmful bacteria, they attack the tissue surrounding the joint.
Osteoarthritis normally starts later in life than rheumatoid arthritis and along with joint pain, some rheumatoid arthritis sufferers feel tired or generally unwell when inflammation occurs. In rheumatoid arthritis it is also possible to have inflammation in other organs as well as the joints, for example, the lungs and blood vessels, but usually it is the joints that are affected.
Having rheumatoid arthritis means that your joints are much more vulnerable to damage than other people’s joints are.
If you have been diagnosed, it is important to start rheumatoid arthritis treatment ASAP
The word pain is derived from the word poena, which means punishment. And that’s exactly how many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers describe their pain.
Even though rheumatoid arthritis can’t be prevented, there are a number of strategies that can minimise its impact on your life. Early treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis has been shown to slow the progression of joint damage in most patients, helping to prevent irreversible disability.
Before starting treatment, your Fixio physio will determine your needs based on any current incapacity, disability, and handicaps.
One of the key issues for anyone who has rheumatoid arthritis is dealing with pain, stiffness and discomfort. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis rank pain as the most important symptom to be treated.
Your physio will ask you a number of questions about your:
- limitations in daily functioning,
- morning stiffness,
- muscle strength,
- joint range of motion,
- joint stability,
- limitations in leisure activities,
- aerobic capacity and
- limitations in work situations
Your joints will likely be checked for the presence of swelling, tenderness, loss of motion, and deformity.
Your physiotherapy treatment may include:
- The application of heat or cold to relieve pain
- Rest and splinting during rest to reduce pain and improve function
- Education on safe exercising for your needs
- Relaxation techniques to relieve secondary muscle spasm
Staying active with rheumatoid arthritis is a balancing act
Too much heavy weight bearing exercise such as jogging, jumping, lifting can overload already painful eroded joints. But people who have rheumatoid arthritis need strong muscles to support their joints, particularly if they are damaged due to cartilage erosion.
Pain and stiffness from not keeping active can often lead patients to avoid using the affected joints. This lack of use can result in loss of joint motion and muscle atrophy, decreasing joint stability and producing a further increase in fatigue and weaker muscles.
This is where an expert physio can guide you through a bespoke exercise program.
Objectives of physio treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are to
- prevent disability,
- to increase functional capacity,
- to provide pain relief,
- and to provide patient education.
If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or would like more information regarding your specific pain, give us a call to book an appointment with one of our Fixio experts.