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Fighting Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

What is RA?

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints within the body. Symptoms are generally joint pain and stiffness that typically worsen with age. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but one of the most common is rheumatoid arthritis. While rheumatoid arthritis is progressive and incurable, there are non-invasive, drug-free ways to manage the potentially debilitating pain it can cause.

“Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints. A properly functioning immune system attacks and disables foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria. In the case of RA, the immune system sees the body’s joints as the foreign substance/invader and responds accordingly by attacking them. This attack creates an inflammatory response in the joint lining (synovium) and associated cartilage and tissue. Pain, swelling and -- over time -- degradation of the joint can occur. If left unchecked, joints ultimately become loose, unstable, experience loss of mobility and become deformed. Joint damage cannot be reversed. RA generally affects the most distal joints (joints farthest from the spine) first, such as fingers, hands, wrists, ankles, and knees. One distinguishing factor of RA is that it affects joints symmetrically (Dr. Molly Casey)”.

Signs and Symptoms of RA

  • pain and swelling in three or more joints, primarily in the hands, wrists, or fingers (for at least 6 weeks)
  • usually symmetrical (on both sides)
  • morning stiffness of joints and muscles lasting for more than 1 hour (for at least 6 weeks)
  • general weakness and fatigue

Symptoms vary from person to person. In some, the disease may be mild with periods of activity or joint inflammation (flare-ups) and inactivity (remissions), in others it may be continuously active and get worse as time goes on.

The American Chiropractic Association recommends that chiropractors focus on helping people with rheumatoid arthritis by:

  • Helping them improve their range of motion.
  • Improving flexibility and endurance.
  • Increasing muscle tone and strength.
  • Providing diet and nutritional advice and supplements to address inflammation (a key part of the pain and worsening of rheumatoid arthritis).

Most chiropractors use other treatments in addition to manipulation, including massage, heat and ice, ultrasound, electronic stimulation, rehabilitative exercises, and magnet therapy. Such therapies might be helpful in someone with RA who has other conditions that could benefit: massage therapy for tight muscles, for example, or ultrasound for a condition of the feet called plantar fasciitis, which causes pain on the bottom of your foot because of tight and inflamed tissues.

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