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Rheumatoid Arthritis & Joint Pain – How It Restricts Your Mobility & What You Can Do

Here are some tips that you can use to manage the rheumatoid arthritis joint pain.
Written by - Updated March 6, 2019

Rheumatoid arthritis – A chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints, including those in the hands and feet. Shutterstock Images

Rheumatoid arthritis, abbreviated as RA is a complicated disease which has a varied impact on each patient. Regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, anybody is susceptible to the risk of developing this auto-immune disorder. After osteoarthritis and gout, rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common kinds of arthritis.

RA is a chronic disease which has had its impact on more than 1.3 million Americans[1], 2 million Brits and equally large numbers of people in Australia. The definite cause of RA is still unknown but there are several studies which prove that there is no such cure for this disease.

Researchers also claim that RA occurs due to autoimmune disorder[2] and it is one of those auto-immune disorders which are more common than lupus, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.

Whenever the antibodies of the person wrongly attack the synovial joint fluid that is there within the joints, arthritis is triggered off. Women are 3 times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men and women usually get this disease at a very tender age as compared to men.

RA starts affecting both men and women between the ages of 30 and 60 years[3].

Rheumatoid Arthritis – A Detailed Overview on it

RA or rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic illness which leads to inflammation and this can be so severe that it can affect the way in which joints look and how the body parts function and look.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause deformities in the finger joints and this can make it difficulty to move your hands. There might also form rheumatoid nodules at any place of the body.

JIA or juvenile idiopathic arthritis, also called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is a kind of arthritis which can occur among children who are less than 16 years.[4] This type of arthritis also leads to stiffness of joints and inflammation which lasts for more than 6 weeks.

Unlike adult arthritis which usually lasts for a lifetime, children usually tend to outgrow JIA. This disease can affect the development of bones in a growing child.

On the other hand, there are some children who develop JIA in their childhood and they continue to develop arthritis later on when they start aging.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – What Causes this Painful Disease?

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis affects joint linings, causing painful swelling. Shutterstock Images

Doctors usually don’t know the exact reason that leads to RA which is an autoimmune disorder. As long as an autoimmune disorder is concerned, the human body’s immune system wrongly attacks the working cells and tissues which in turn lead to inflammation around joints.

This often leads to damage to the skeletal system too. Even worse, RA can also cause damage to other vital organs like lungs, heart, and kidneys. The researchers are of the opinion that heredity might be a factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis – What are the symptoms?

RA most often triggers the joints like wrists, hands, ankles, feet, elbows, knees and shoulders. There is inflammation in the mentioned areas and the symptoms suddenly start off with gradually and the symptoms might vary from one person to another. Here are few symptoms that may occur:

  • Stiffness, particularly in the morning
  • Joint pain
  • Reduced ability to move
  • Joint swelling
  • Excessive pain with very less joint movement
  • Bumps on top of the smaller joints
  • Difficulty in pinching or grasping things
  • Difficulty in doing daily activities like opening jars, tying shoes or buttoning shirts
  • Occasional fever
  • Fatigue and lack of energy

Although there are times when such symptoms might be similar to other health conditions, yet you should seek the help of a healthcare provider for diagnosing things.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – How is it Diagnosed?

Diagnose RA

Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages because the early signs and symptoms mimic those of many other diseases. Shutterstock Images

During the early stages of the disease, it might get difficult to diagnose RA as the symptoms are pretty mild and the signs of the disease might not be detected in blood reports or X-rays. The healthcare professional will try to know the history of your health and advise you to opt for physical exams. You might require tests like:

  • Joint aspiration: This is a test where a fluid sample is taken from a joint that is swollen and this is usually done so that you can watch out for signs of gout or infection.
  • X-ray: This is a test where radiation is used to create images of the internal tissues, organs and bones on a film.
  • Nodule biopsy: Tissue samples are taken and given a look under the microscope. This biopsy is done to check for abnormal cells or cancer.
  • MRI or Ultrasound: These are imaging tests which can check if there is bone inflammation or damage.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are done to find out few antibodies which are given the name of rheumatoid factor and to detect other symptoms of RA.

7 Things That You Should Stop Doing When You Have Arthritis

It is indeed extremely tough to live with chronic pain and other different symptoms of arthritis. Even though you might be working with the best health professional or rheumatologist, you should still have a tailor-made effective treatment plan ready.

Patients often find it easy to fall off track and develop various bad habits along with a negative attitude. Here are a few things that you should immediately stop if you have arthritis and joint pain.

1. Stop believing that you can’t exercise

There are many sufferers who think that if they get active, they will have more pain and hence they get habituated with not exercising at all. This belief is one of the biggest myths associated with arthritis.

This is also an ironic idea as it is through inactivity that you can make disability and pain from arthritis worse with time. If you practice regular exercise, this will move your joints, avert stiffness, and strengthen the muscles around the joints. In case you’re sedentary, arthritis will become worse.

2. Don’t surrender to a sedentary life

Sedentary Life

A sedentary lifestyle makes arthritis symptoms dangerous. Shutterstock Images

Not only do few people with arthritis believe that they can’t exercise, they also tend to believe that a sedentary life is necessary for you. Post an active day, it is vital to take it easy or when your body tends to tell you, this shouldn’t become a habit for you.

3. Pay attention to your physical restraints

Just as there are patients of dementia who need dementia caring from their caregivers, patients of RA also will require help with all kinds of daily activities like bathing, combing hair, going to the toilet, eating and various other things.

The more you remain aware of your physical limitations, the better you can pace your activities accordingly.

Try to push yourself beyond your limit and keep a limit to your activities. However, make sure that overdoing your limits will boost pain and put you at a higher risk of damaging your joints.

4. Go for a healthy diet

What will your diet do for you when you have arthritis? Well, there is a relation as eating the right things is related to maintaining an ideal weight. If you’ve got arthritis, this is even more important for you.

Carrying those extra pounds can put in too much stress on your joints which will most likely make arthritis pain worse for you. If you even gain a moderate amount of weight, this can lead to stress on your joints which are already stressed due to the disease.

5. Seek help of mobility aids

A walker, a cane or a wheelchair might become necessary for people who are suffering from arthritis as these are the only ways in which they can remain independent and move around on their own.

Considering your age and mentality, it might be tough to come to terms with the idea of seeking the help of a mobility aid but if you need one, you shouldn’t let pride come in your way. A wheelchair or a cane doesn’t define your personality and no one should judge you on that.

6. Don’t think that the disease will gradually go away

There are in fact many kinds of chronic diseases like arthritis which can’t be cured. Though it can be tough to accept this, it is vital to try out things. From the time you developed the disease, you should have a realistic expectation from arthritis.

Since the time you get to see the symptoms, you should start seeing a doctor so that you can get treated as soon as possible. This condition is not going to go away and hence you have to make the healthiest of decisions to stay positive while surviving through the disease.

7. Don’t feel guilty about your disease

Arthritis can gradually start intruding in your life. After one point of time, this disease will stop you from doing a few of the most normal and mundane things like doing household work.

This is when you may begin to feel guilty for not being able to do the tasks which are expected from you. But you should be honest with yourself. People who love you will understand your physical limitations and will support you too.

An Arthritis Flare – What Triggers this?

An Arthritis Flare

A flare is a period of increased disease activity or worsening symptoms. creakyjoints.org

If you’re someone who has been suffering from arthritis, you must have gone through a flare. A flare is the heightened disease activity which worsens the symptoms.

This is a time when the medicines don’t seem to work. There are many patients who report that flares have often had their impact on other aspects of their lives too. But what is the reason behind such flares? The causes of such flares depend on the type of arthritis. Here are a few triggers.

RA or Rheumatoid Arthritis

In the case of RA, a flare is related to natural variations which can cause inflammation and this clearly implies that flares might vary in duration, intensity, and frequency. However, these can be reduced if they’re treated properly.

In most RA cases, the risks of a flare increase when the treatments are suddenly stopped.[5] When you stop treating the disease, it is going to recur. So, in the case of RA, a flare can trigger off when there are medicine changes.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder and it tends to get worse with time. So, it can get tough to predict a flare from the progression of the disease. You may have swelling of joints, joint pain, reduced range of motion and stiffness of joints.

Few of the common triggers of osteoarthritis flare are overactivity of the joints, trauma caused to the joints or other triggers like stress, bone spurs, cold weather, repetitive motions and a change in barometric pressure.[6] Weight gain can also lead to osteoarthritis flare.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is another inflammatory disease which sets an impact on your joints and skin. More than 35% of the people with this kind of skin disease like psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis.

Majority with PsA report that a psoriasis flare will precede a flare of all kinds of arthritis symptoms. Common triggers for this kind of arthritis are:

  • Skin injury
  • Stress
  • Few medicines
  • Strep throat or bacterial infections
  • Diet, allergies, intake of alcohol, weather and smoking changes

Gout

When your uric acid levels are uncontrolled, they lead to the formation of crystals near your joints and this causes inflammation and pain in the form of gout. While there are medicines which can set a limit on the levels of uric acid over time, this can also eliminate flares.

Initially, when you’re given medicines to lower uric acid, you may find your pain to increase due to a sudden alteration in uric acid levels. But once you continue the medicines, you will definitely find an improvement to your pain level with time.

Read Next: Things To Know About Arthritis Leg Pain

Therefore, if you’re an arthritis patient or you have someone at home suffering from this disease, you have to keep all the above-listed points in mind.

Arthritis causes immense pain to joints and hence it is tough enough to survive with this disease. Try to keep a positive attitude towards life as this is the best way to combat the challenges of this disease.

Author

Contributor : Melissa Feldman (Joint Health Magazine)

Melissa Feldman writes about a range of lifestyle topics, including health, fitness, nutrition, and the intersection of them all. She has undergraduate degrees in both teaching and psychology. She spent almost 20 years writing and designing English as a Second Language educational materials, including several textbooks. She has presented the cumulative research of many health topics ranging from dietary supplements to joint pain relief products and topical pain reliever. She is skilled at writing compelling articles and producing academic, marketing and creative content. Melissa currently lives in Toronto, Canada and works as an independent research writer. She has more than a decade of experience reviewing and editing publications intended for both public and professional audiences. You can connect with her on Linkedin.

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