Do you struggle with joint pain, swelling, and stiffness? Is fatigue, morning stiffness, depression, or joint deformity making life challenging?
The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be exhausting and painful, but you are not alone. The study Prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in the United States adult population in healthcare claims databases, 2004–2014 estimated that around 1.36 million American adults and 1-2% of the world’s population have this form of joint disease. If you are female, you face two to three times the risk, especially if you are also over 55 years of age.
Before we examine the signs and symptoms of this disease and — importantly — how you can calm pain and improve function, let’s look at what RA is and why the experts believe it develops.
- 1 What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- 2 Which Joints are Affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis
- 3 The Signs & Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- 4 What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- 5 Conventional Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options
- 6 Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments to Augment Therapy
- 7 Rheumatoid Arthritis and a Pain-Free Life?
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means a confused body attacks its own tissues.
The immune system’s job is to protect us against foreign invaders. Sometimes, though, instead of blasting organisms that can hurt us, it turns on itself. As it does, joint and other tissues can be destroyed.
In RA, the immune system’s antibodies attack the synovium; the soft tissue that lines the spaces within freely movable joints, bursae, sheaths and tendons. This can cause inflammation and pain and, without appropriate and early treatment, irreversible damage, deformity and loss of function may occur.
Which Joints are Affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis
Different types of arthritis affect differing joints. In rheumatoid arthritis, the small joints of the hands and feet are common targets. However, the elbows, wrists, knees and ankles are regularly involved too. As the joint cartilage gradually becomes damaged, the joint space, appearance and function all change for the worse– adding to your pain not to mention self-esteem.
Imagine: A home has been built on a stable cement foundation. The walls are squared, the windows well-placed and roof is stable. This provides a safe environment in which to live. Now, visualize the concrete slab starting to disintegrate. Over time, this instability leads to cracking walls, shifting window sills and a roof that becomes unhinged.
When this process occurs within the joints, it leads to damage and a possible collapse of the soft and bony architecture. No wonder it hurts and changes the way affected joints look, feel and function!
The Signs & Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers experience a range of symptoms from joint-related, to seemingly unconnected concerns. The hallmark of RA is symmetrical swelling of numerous small joints, particularly those of the hands and feet. When a joint is effected on one side, the same joint tends to be effected on the other.
In the early stages, spontaneous remission may occur. However, the usual onset is gradual, with persistent progression over weeks or months. Joint stiffness, pain and tenderness are common first indicators. Morning stiffness is often present in osteoarthritis, like when a hip or knee has wear and tear. In RA, the stifling of easy movement instead continues for an hour or more.
Rheumatoid arthritis is often accompanied by:
- Generalised symptoms including depression, fatigue, and malaise
- Low-grade fever on occasion
- Loss of appetite
- Rheumatoid nodules may develop beneath the skin.
- Cardiopulmonary disease including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), lumps in the lungs (intrapulmonary nodules), pleurisy, and widespread connective tissue scarring may develop.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis? The brief answer is that no-one really knows!
There are a number of possible causes, including:
- Theory of bacteria: According to the study, Rheumatoid arthritis: how well do the theories fit the evidence?, infection by a slow growing bacteria may be responsible for triggering and worsening rheumatoid arthritis.
- Genetics: Variation of the human leukocyte antigen gene, which helps the body distinguish between its own proteins and those of foreign bacteria and viruses, have been linked to RA. However, inheritance patterns aren’t clear.
- Hormones: Women face a far higher risk of developing RA. Plus, the symptoms may be reduced, even eliminated, during pregnancy and flare during breastfeeding. This has led to the understandable belief that there may be a hormonal link. However, the jury is still out.
- Environmental factors: Inhaled mineral dust,air pollution, and active and passive cigarette smoking have been linked to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Conventional Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options
Conventional treatments have revolved around the prescription of pharmaceutical medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like methotrexate form the therapeutic mainstay for most sufferers.
These medications have pros and cons. They help to reduce pain and slow progression of the disease. Unfortunately, they also come with serious side effects. NSAIDS can cause bleeding, heart attack, kidney damage, and stroke. And Corticosteroids can increase fracture rates, sepsis, and venous thromboembolism (blood clot obstruction). Methotrexate can cause digestive problems like nausea and vomiting, mouth ulcers or sores, plus cause headaches and fatigue.
The wonderful news is that there are safer, natural options to enhance symptomatic relief and improve joint function.
Let’s take a look!
Natural Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments to Augment Therapy
Natural treatments can provide much-needed physical and psychological relief and increase function for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Here are our top 8 options:
- Gentle Movement: Gentle movement improves and maintains flexibility, fitness, function, strength, and a healthy mood. For those with RA it’s important to be sensible. Don’t immediately jump into high intensity exercise and carefully monitor your progress and capacity.
- Anti-inflammatory diet: Never underestimate the healing power of food! Nutrients aid repair and recovery. For the most part, these are obtained from the foods we eat and the beverages we drink. Rheumatoid arthritis is accompanied by higher levels of inflammation, so opting for anti-inflammatory sustenance makes sense. Wild caught mackerel and salmon, walnuts, almonds and chia seeds, virgin olive oil, tomatoes, berries and green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are ideal anti-inflammatory choices. It is also important to avoid consumables that elevate inflammation, like refined sugar, processed and packaged foods, bakery goods, fried foods, alcohol, and trans fats.
- Heat and Cold Packs: We love cheap, effective old school remedies like hot and cold packs. Well-loved by RA sufferers, heat packs can ease pain, stiffness, and tired muscles, while cold packs may calm inflamed joints and reduce swelling.
- Meditation: Mindfulness meditation has been shown to ease discomfort, boost our ability to cope with pain and disability, and improve well-being. The study Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients showed that participating in a meditation training program can lower emotional distress and enhance well-being.
- Supplements: Supplementation can bring relief and repair for those with rheumatoid arthritis. Probiotics that contain Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus delbrueckii, omega 3 fatty acids, and the herb Thunder God Vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) are perfect therapeutic additions.
- Ayurvedic medicine: The ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda can improve grip strength, walking time, and ease swollen and painful joints, while reducing RA functional class and delivering healthier blood work!
- Massage: It’s no wonder people with RA love muscle work! Medium pressure massage has been shown to ease muscle tension around affected joints, alleviate pain, and may even slow the progress of this disease.
- Natural analgesic creams and ointments:Creams and ointments can provide wonderful relief in many ways. Massage has been shown to calm tight, painful muscles. Rubbing in a natural pain relieving tonic combines massage with the local delivery of soothing compounds, while bypassing the oral route that can create gastrointestinal issues. Premium quality products that contain ingredients like menthol, camphor and arnica combine beautifully to deliver much needed relief, without the harmful side effects so common in conventional treatments. CBDMEDIC™ offers a range of creams and ointments that have been formulated to temporarily reduce pain and suffering.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and a Pain-Free Life?
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you’ll know this disease can strip a sufferers quality of life and capacity to live well. Yet with the right steps and products, relief is available. You can live a happier, healthier life and substantially reduce pain and dysfunction.