Five Effective Strategies To Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis
In this article, we discuss about the effective strategies that can help in managing RA and keeping its symptoms under control.
Exercise helps prevent any further damage to joints
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder which needs timely and appropriate management to control its progression. RA is a condition in which the body's immune system attacks joints. This creates swelling or inflammation in joints and result in joint pain, morning stiffness and bone deformities if the condition is not managed properly. In this article, we discuss about the effective strategies that can help in managing RA and keeping its symptoms under control. Timely diagnosis and treatment is the key to managing RA.
I feel there is need to create more awareness about rheumatology as a speciality and the specialised drugs - which a general physician is often not aware of. There have been remarkable changes in the management of RA in the past 3 decades and only rheumatologists are well versed with them.
All patients with rheumatoid arthritis need to be ideally treated by a rheumatologists. However, lack of availability of rheumatologists may be problematic. In case you are living in city or place with no rheumatologists nearby, you can consult a physician /orthopaedic surgeon. You should try to get in touch with rheumatologist at least once in the early stages of their disease to make a treatment plan.
Here are my 5 most effective strategies to manage RA
1. Exercise Routine
RA patients should exercise once the joint pain is reduced. When there is swelling of joints or severe joint pain, physical exercise can further aggravate the pain. Once the pain is better, exercise can help in improving range of motion and strengthening muscles around joints. Exercise also prevents any further damage to joints. Exercise also has anti-inflammatory effects. It should be done regularly by RA patients.
Make sure that you avoid loading the joints by lifting heavy objects, especially when your joints are swollen or damaged. Take care of how you lift things and don't put load on already diseases joints. This will help in preventing RA from getting worse.
2. Hot and cold compress
Both hot and cold treatments can help in alleviating joint pain and swelling caused by RA, although they do not change the course of RA. RA patients can use heat treatment twice / thrice a day to reduce pain. Along with this, RA patients are initially prescribed anti-inflammatory medicines and local injection within the joint (if one particular joint is painful) which together help in controlling pain, till the disease modifying drugs start acting.
3. Take rest and proper sleep
Proper rest and sleep is important for RA patients. At the same time, being physically active is equally important. They should take rest in between activities in a day. They should ensure that they sleep well as it rejuvenates the system and helps in quicker healing.
Hot and cold treatments and ant-inflammatory drugs can help in reducing joint pain that causes difficulty in sleeping at night.
RA patients should exercise once the joint pain is reduced. When there is swelling of joints or severe joint pain, physical exercise can further aggravate the pain. Once the pain is better, exercise can help in improving range of motion and strengthening muscles around joints."
Dr. Rohini SamantConsultant Rheumatologist, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai
4. Diet for RA management
No particular food has been found to aggravate or alleviate pain caused by RA. Having said that, omega-3 fatty acids rich food like fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and fish oil can help. The most important thing is to have a balanced diet. A lot of protein is lost if you have multiple joints that are swollen and inflamed. There is thus a need of a good and healthy diet to counter the disease, along with proper medicines.
5. Drug treatment for RA
Awareness about RA has increased and this has enabled many RA patients to seek timely treatment after early diagnosis.
There are many options for RA treatment today in terms of medicine.
By continuing with the treatment properly, RA patients can live a nearly normal life. Early diagnosis and timely treatment is important for RA treatment and management. This cannot be overemphasized.
(Dr Rohini Samant is Consultant Rheumatologist at Hinduja Hospital, Mahim and Hinduja Healthcare Surgical at Khar, Mumbai)
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