The Arthritis Foundation defines Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) as an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints of the body. Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States suffer with RA, and nearly three times as many women have the disease than men. If you or a loved one suffers from this condition and wishes for relief from RA pain, discuss the points below with a doctor to find a unique solution that is best for your situation.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis pain?
RA pain occurs when the immune system attacks the joints and causes the tissues around the joints to thicken. This thickening causes swelling and pain in and around the joints. Inflammation causes damage to the cartilage of the affected joint and can cause damage to the bone if ignored. Over time, cartilage is lost, and the spacing between the bones in a joint becomes smaller. Joints can end up losing their mobility, become unstable. RA also has a chance to cause joint deformity. The damage from RA cannot be reversed, so early detection is crucial.
What medications can relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain?
Early diagnosis is important in stopping the symptoms caused by RA. There are five different types of medications: disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biological response modifiers, glucocorticoids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), and analgesics (pain killers).
- Disease-Modifying Rheumatic drugs and Biologic Response Modifers?
DMARDs are generally administered within the first few months of diagnosis. They can often slow or stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis by interrupting the immune system process that causes inflammation. Unfortunately, these medications could take up to six months to take effect. Some examples of DMARDs include Ridaura, Neoral, Imuran, and Myochrysine.
Biological response modifiers are a type of DMARDs that also target the immune system to stop inflammation. These medications cannot cure RA, but they can slow progression and possibly put the disease into remission. Biological response modifiers are taken by injection or IV and are quite expensive. Examples of these medications include Orencia, Humira, Kineret, and Enbrel.
Glucocorticoids are strong anti-inflammatory drugs that block other immune responses. They can help relieve symptoms and may slow or stop joint damage. These steroids can be taken by pill or as an injection at your doctor’s office. Because of the side effects, most doctors recommend short term use of these drugs. It’s possible that these may be prescribed until DMARDs take full effect. Examples of glucocorticoids include Celestone, Deltasone, Orasone, and Meticorten.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs block enzymes that promote inflammation, and they can be obtained easily over the counter. They work by reducing inflammation, in turn reducing swelling and pain. NSAIDs do not reduce joint damage and cannot be used alone to combat the disease. A common NSAID is ibuprofen. Common prescription NSAIDs include Celebrex and Voltaren.
These medications specifically work to reduce pain. They do not affect swelling or joint damage. There is a variety of over-the-counter options and prescription options available. Acetaminophen can be used over the counter, and tramadol may be used by prescription.
What home remedies can relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain?
In addition to medical treatments, there are also home remedies that may alleviate RA pain. Be sure to talk with your doctor before using natural or holistic methods to treat RA pain.
- Acupuncture is often an option that many RA patients opt for. This method stimulates the body’s natural pain killers through the use of needles. The needles are stuck into the skin and gently placed at nerve endings.
- Topical creams, gels, and lotions can be rubbed directly onto the skin to alleviate painful joints. The skin absorbs the ingredients to provide temporary relief for minor joint pain. Products that contain capsaicin have been proven to help RA patients.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a form of low-voltage electricity therapy that stimulates the nerves and block pain pathways.
- Some studies show that fish oil is effective in reducing pain and stiffness for sufferers of RA. Fish oil can interfere with other medications, so check with your doctor before starting this method.
How can rheumatoid arthritis pain be prevented?
Rest and relaxation is one of things you can do to relieve the pain. Getting eight hours of sleep with two-hour naps in the afternoon can reduce stress and allow muscle relaxation. Exercise can also strengthen muscles and increase range of motion. Swimming and tai chi are two low-impact options that help strengthen muscles and relieve stress. Weight management reduces the stress on the joints, and it can even increase the effectiveness of some medications.