Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an inflammatory joint disease that affects up to 1% of the adults in the developed world. That means you probably know someone who suffers from it. Why am I telling you about it today? I have several patients with RA who I am helping to live with their arthritis and make considerable improvements in their functioning. And I would like to help more patients like them!
In your joints, there is a lining on the non-weight bearing aspect called the synovium. This is what becomes inflamed and damaged in RA. This spreads and can damage the cartilage and bone nearby.
When this happens, certain molecules react and create the signs and symptoms of RA: pain and swelling along with degradation of cartilage and bone.
Who does it affect? Well, women are affected 2 to 3 times more often. This all can appear at any age though it often presents and is diagnosed when people are in their 50s.
What causes this? Well, the full cause is unknown. There are several genes implicated, suggesting genetic causes. What can we control? Other potential causes or risk factors such as: smoking, periodontitis, gut/mouth/lung health, excess weight, and viral infections.
RA is an inflammatory joint disease: in this case, the body produces auto-antibodies that lead to attack on our own joints. This process can be fast, or slow. While the auto-antibodies begin forming, the “pre-RA phase,” there may not be any visible signs or symptoms. And this phase can last several months to 10 YEARS without any presenting pain or swelling!
How does this show up? Well, it affects several joints on both sides of the body. Usually, there will be pain and swelling in small joints first: both hands or both feet. If pain and swelling occurs in just one hand or foot, it is most likely a different kind of arthritis. Usually, patients wake up and have stiffness for 30 minutes to several hours.
What are some other things to be aware of? Well, patients with RA may also have cardiovascular disease, interstitial lung disease, and interference in work productivity, physical functioning, and quality of life. Other hindering symptoms can include fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
In my office I love helping patients live through this type of arthritis, as well as THRIVE. Therefore, what are some ways to manage this disease? The following are the BEST according to Mayo, as well as my own personal experience with patients.
1. BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE. Keeping muscles strong and your joints flexible can protect joints from FUTURE DAMAGE. It can also help with sleep quality.
2. USE HEAT OR COLD. Using warm baths, showers, and/or heating pads can help to ease pain and stiffness.
3. HEALTHY LIFESTYLE. Small steps such as getting enough sleep, avoiding tobacco, utilizing stress-reducing techniques, and eating a healthy diet will help you manage this disease.
4. TAKE MEDICATION. Yes, I, as a chiropractor, said that. Now, take medications prescribed by your rheumatologist that help to reduce inflammation and slow the progression of the disease WHILE you exercise and commit to a healthy lifestyle.
One of my patients, Lindsey, has RA and told me that she needs to exercise, eat healthy, and sleep in order to function with RA. However, now that she has committed to this lifestyle, she is RELIEVED and happy with her choices. They have given her hope that she can WORK, get MARRIED, and have CHILDREN with LITTLE PAIN AND SUFFERING despite her diagnosis.
Please reach out with questions and do not accept or let someone else accept that a diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis is debilitating, take charge of your health and movement!
PS- If this made you think of someone with an arthritis, please forward them this email or encourage them to schedule a with call me!