What Rheumatoid Arthritis is and What You can do About it
Overview on Rheumatoid Arthritis:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and joints. It is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of the joints causing inflammation, swelling and pain. RA can eventually lead to contractures and joint deformities. Typically RA affects smaller joints first such as joints in the hands and feet and then can spread to wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders on both sides of the body.
- Severity of RA varies from person to person and symptoms may come and go with periods of flare-ups and remission.
- Signs and symptoms include tenderness, warmth, and swelling of joints, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever and stiffness of joints that is worse in the morning and with inactivity.
- Risk Factors: Smoking, obesity, family history, between 40 and 60 years old, and female.
Tips for Self-Management of RA:
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Use heat to decrease pain and stiffness or cold to reduce acute pain and inflammation.
- Take frequent rest breaks during activities and as needed throughout the day to conserve energy and prevent a flare- up.
- Increasing mobility and range of motion with gentle stretching and manual techniques.
- Recognizing improper body mechanics that may be exacerbating symptoms.
- Reducing pain with low-level laser therapy, electrotherapy and massage techniques.
- Developing an individualized exercise program to increase strength of muscles surrounding affected joints.
- Education on at home techniques to control pain and decrease symptoms.
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