Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It affects the joints as well as the skin, lungs, heart, eyes and blood vessels. This condition is most notorious for the pain and discomfort it causes in the joints. Unlike osteoarthritis, it does not attack the cartilage but affects the lining of the joints.
This results in erosion of the bone tissue and can even cause deformities. There is no known cure for this condition and treatment is mostly focused on relieving the pain caused. Some of the ways to manage your pain are:
- Medication: Medication can help control the inflammation and pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or DMARDs are usually the first course of treatment. These may be accompanied by steroids and help reduce inflammation. The best medication to relieve pain is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. In some cases, stronger pain relievers may be prescribed but these should be used cautiously. Excessive dependence on pain relievers can cause addiction.
- Change Your Diet: A diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids can help control inflammation. In turn, this can help relieve discomfort and slow the progression of the disease. Cold water fish and fish oil supplements are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids. In addition, it is important to have a well-balanced diet and to avoid excessive carbs and sugars that can lead to weight gain. It is important to note that heavier people suffer from more pain as their weight puts pressure on the joints.
- Exercise Regularly: Rheumatoid arthritis makes movements difficult and hence exercising may seem counterintuitive but this can help in the long run. Avoid high-intensity workouts and pick low-intensity activities like walking, cycling, swimming etc. Water aerobics is one of the best forms of exercise for rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga can also be very beneficial. Regular exercise is important but it is also important not to overdo it. Put exercising on hold during acute flare-ups and avoid doing anything that increases your pain. It is a good idea to consult a physical therapist to know what the best type of activity is for you.
- Hot and cold packs: Heat and cold therapy can help relieve pain immensely. A hot pack will help relax the muscles while the cold pack will numb the pain. Heat packs and cold packs can be used alternatively. Alternatively, you could soak the affected joint in hot water and cold water.