Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks synovial joints. Wow, that was a mouthful! Let’s take a closer look at this definition that will launch us on a more complete understanding of RA.
First, the word chronic, in layman’s terms, means a condition has been present for an extended period; it’s not a condition that comes and goes. The opposite of chronic is acute which means it comes on suddenly, sharply, and typically without warning. Chronic means you live with it every day and have adapted to living with it, which is not always the best idea. When a pain or an ache is with us every day, it’s our body’s way of telling us that there’s an issue with this part of our body. Sometimes it can be dealt with; other times it will be a matter of maintenance and doing the best we can. But always, we should do a little investigation, starting with your primary health care provider.
The word systemic means that the condition has penetrated the whole system; it affects the body as a whole rather than individual parts. In the context of RA, this means is could show up anywhere on your body. The word inflammatory speaks for itself, and in medical terms, the word disorder, means a disturbance of normal function in the body. Are you with me so far?
Synovial joints are a particularly interesting, well-engineered area of the body, typically located where we bend; elbows, knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, etc. These joints are so named because of the presence of a capsule (synovial cavity) which surrounds the surfaces of the joints that move (articulate). This capsule is filled with synovial fluid which is rich in collagen and proteins and lubricates the joint as it moves.
And there you have it, the complete definition. Now, let’s take a look at best practices for living with rheumatoid arthritis.
RHEUMATIOD ARTHRITIS AND LIFESTYLE
It’s best to eliminate foods from your diet that can actually cause generalized inflammation in your body.
As difficult as this might seem, gentle exercise helps strengthen the muscles around your joints. And when your muscles are strong, your joints are supported, thus making movement less painful. Gentle exercise moves your muscles, and your muscles are the only pump your lymphatic system has. Your lymphatic system is a type of circulatory system responsible for filtering and removing toxins from your body. Toxic buildup, concentrated in one spot, can also cause pain. When you sit too long without moving your muscles, toxins build up, and so can stiffness and pain.
Gentle exercise can be done in a chair, in a warm pool, or in a Jacuzzi or hot tub (provided you don’t have high blood pressure). The heat from the pool or tub will help your circulation and the water will support your muscles as you move. A slow amble around the block once a day is a good option. If you have to go shopping, a shopping cart is a good option, providing stability and allowing for ease of movement at the same time. Just make sure you don’t lean on it too heavily! A companion for these outings is always a good idea. Anything that lets you move, without causing you pain, can help.
The “Heat and Cold” Debate
This is a matter of preference; each have their merits.
Cold dulls the sensation of pain, has a numbing effect, and can decrease muscle spasms. However, many people can’t tolerate having a cold pack on their body for long.
Heat helps ease pain and relaxes tense muscles. A bath, on the slightly warmer side, for 15 minutes is very soothing. Other options include bean bags which can be heated in the microwave, electric heating pads and electric blankets. Always be sure to NEVER apply heat directly to your skin. Any type of heated object should be wrapped in a soft towel to avoid burns and allow the object to remain heated longer.
Here’s where the compromise comes in: many people with rheumatoid arthritis find relief by soaking their aching joints in warm water for four minutes and then in cool water for one minute. Repeating this cycle for 30 minutes, ending with the warm soak is very effective.
There is no cure for RA, however medications can reduce inflammation in your joints in order to relieve pain and prevent or slow joint damage.
Typically, your health care provider will give you a choices of the following:
- NSAIDs — Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- STEROIDS — Prescription medications, such as Prednisone, reduce inflammation and pain and slow joint damage. There are, however, side effects with steroids that need to be taken into account before deciding on whether or not steroids are right for you.
- DMARDs – Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system out of control and these types of medications will serve to suppress is. Trouble is, with these medications, you leave yourself open to an increased risk of infection.
Some common complementary and alternative treatments have been shown promise for rheumatoid arthritis, but also have side effects. Always speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new medications.
- Thunder God Vine – The seeds of Evening Primrose, Borage and Black Current contain a type of fatty acid that may help with RA pain and morning stiffness.
- Fish Oils – This movement therapy involves gentle exercises and stretches combned with deep breathing. Many people use tai chi to relieve stress in their lives. Tai Chi may relieve RA pain, so long as you don’t overdo it and take on movements that actually cause you pain.
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
Udo’s Oil is a carefully blended mix of the finest Omega 3, 6 and 9 varieties of essential fatty acid sources (EFA’s). EFA’s strengthen the immune system by making hormone-like eicosanoids that regulate immune and inflammatory responses.
2. Barron’s Medical Dictionary
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.