Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Treatment Options
Rheumatoid arthritis is when your body’s immune system attacks your own joints. Symptoms of rhuematoid arthritis are pain in joints on both sides of the body, fatigue, and nodules.
The pain can be confused for osteoarthritis symptoms but an easy way to tell the difference is that rheumatoid arthritis typically effects both sides of the body at the same time, and you probably got it fairly young.
It appears to be easier to manage if you get symptoms suddenly, whereas a slow build up of symptoms is related to a harder time managing it.
Seronegative rheumatoid arthritis has a better prognosis than RA with rheumatoid factors in the blood.
The distinguishing features of R.A. are that both sides of the body are involved at the same time. If you have it in your finger joints, it’s in both hands. If you have it in your feet, shoulders, elbows, or knees, it’s in both, and so on.
Most cases (about 70%) start slowly with multiple joints involved over a period of weeks or months. The hands or feet are commonly affected. You’ll feel stiff and swollen and your joints may be warm to touch, and you may feel tired or unwell overall. Your pain will likely be much worse in the morning, and gentle activity can help ease it.
Rheumatoid Arthritis appears to be an autoimmune disorder, although it’s unknown what triggers it, and triggering factors change from patient to patient. There are blood tests that can determine factors involved, and I’m not going to get into that here. I prefer to stick to natural treatment options.
Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis
What happens to your joints is this… the lining of the joint (synovium) becomes inflamed which causes an immune response as immune cells rush to the area. The synovium (joint lining) thickens up as a protective measure (causing swelling and stiffness), and eventually the immune cells get into the joint itself where they start working on the cartilage, thinning it out. This allows the immune cells to start attacking the underlying bone, and explains why the hands and feet are deformed.
It can feel helpless to watch and feel your body wage this war. And becoming educated about tools to help you is important.
And this is where I’m going to leave discussion about conventional treatments behind and focus only on natural solutions to inflammation. If you have been diagnosed or believe you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, seek the advice of your doctor before beginning any treatment, medical or natural. Many herbs, foods, and medicines have interactions you need to be aware of.
Help For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Food is medicine that we eat every day. As such, it can help overall inflammation, or make it worse. You instinctively know this.
If you have R.A. and want to manage it naturally, you are going to have to take responsibility for everything that you put into your body in terms of food.
Read that sentence again, because while it isn’t the only thing that will help, I believe it’s the biggest thing you can control that will help.
There are certain inflammatory foods. You need to avoid them.
Other foods help inflammation. You need to eat them.
Foods that Cause Inflammation
- Artificial flavorings
- Artificial colorings
- Boxed foods
- Fatty foods (red meat, fried foods)
Foods that Help Inflammation
- Omega-3 fatty acids (cold water fish)
- Plant based foods (fruits and vegetables)
- Nuts and seeds (especially walnuts)
- Spices like ginger and tumeric
My simple rule is this… if it’s made in a plant do NOT eat it. If it comes from a plant, DO eat it. Obviously fish don’t come from plants, but you know what I mean… 😉
As far as a specific rheumatoid arthritis diet, there are definitely changes you can make that will help, and certain foods you’ll absolutely want to stay away from.
Other Natural Therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture and arthritis
(from WebMD):With acupuncture, the practitioner uses stainless steel needles to stimulate the major pathways — called “meridians” — in the body. The goal is to stimulate various points targeted at specific areas of the body.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe acupuncture can heal imbalances of energy, or “qi.” The practitioner tries to restore balance to the sick body and boost the immune system. Good health happens when qi flows unrestricted throughout the body.
Some doctors believe acupuncture needles decrease pain by triggering pain-blocking chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are known as the body’s natural opioid. Other theories suggest that acupuncture may block pain signals.
Although little research has been done on people with rheumatoid arthritis, studies do show an improvement in pain, particularly in people with back pain. Some studies have also shown a decrease in pain in people with osteoarthritis. (end quoted text)
MeditationMy personal experience with meditation has been phenomenal, and it’s such a simple thing to try I think you ought to give it a shot.
By learning to quiet your brain for just a few minutes a day, you can decrease your perceptions of pain and help with stress (which leads to more pain). The mind-body connection is real, and you have much power here to positively impact your health and life if you’ll take the time to learn to do it.
Start by sitting in a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes, and breathe in through your nose, focusing your attention on the noise of your breath. Hold it for a second or two, and breathe out, again focusing on your breath.
If you’re like I was, halfway through the inhale your mind will start chattering. Mine went like this, “This is silly” (breathe) “I don’t know why people recommend this” (breathe) “I’m never going to be able to do this” (breathe) “What am I going to make for dinner?” (breathe) “What was that noise?” (breathe)…. you get the idea.
Every time your mind interrupts, just re-focus on the sound of your breath. I recommend starting with just a minute or two a day. Any more than that and you’re likely to get frustrated and quit. Eventually, over several weeks, build up to 10-15 minutes. Even this short amount of time has tremendous health benefits.
VisualizationAfter you’re comfortable quieting your mind, you can then begin to practice visualization, which has also been shown to help decrease pain perceptions with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
In a meditative state, picture yourself in your life without pain. Imagine yourself at work or home, doing your everyday activities, as if you were feeling great and perfectly healthy. Your brain can’t tell the difference between an imagined thing and a real thing, so by sending your brain pictures of you feeling great, you activate your brain to help it become true.
GratitudeThis one is interesting. There are a couple of ways you can put the power of gratitude on your side.
First, think of a part of your body that is pain free and working great (your heart, your digestive system, your shoulders, your eyes – it doesn’t matter which part you pick, just pick one). Now, give thanks for that perfectly working body part! “I am so grateful my legs are strong and pain-free. They carry me around easily so I can get wherever I want. My legs feel great!”
It feels silly at first, but gratitude is one of the most powerful healing mechanisms you control.
For information on supplements and topical creams that can ease arthritis pain, click here.