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Rheumatology and Pain Management

The field of rheumatology is incredibly vast, with more than 100 types of rheumatic diseases. All of these diseases target different portions of the body, and they are triggered by different causes; however, all share one common trait: painful joint inflammation.

With more than 46 million Americans being affected by these painful conditions, physicians are always on the lookout for effective techniques for mitigating musculoskeletal pain. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than 50 percent of American adults reported that they had musculoskeletal pain in 2012.

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis

The main difference between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) is how they develop. Osteoarthritis progresses over the years, as wear-and-tear or overuse takes a toll on weakening joints. Rheumatoid arthritis stems from an autoimmune disorder that produces painful symptoms in the body as the person’s own cells mistakenly attack the joints.

Neither disease has a known cure, but a patient can learn how to manage their symptoms to reduce pain and, of course, prevent further injury to the joint tissue.

Risk Factors in Rheumatoid Arthritis and Joint Pain

While physicians are still on the hunt to discover the underlying cause of joint diseases like this, they have plenty of information on the risk factors: obesity, smoking, old age, and exposure to certain chemicals (like asbestos and silica) are all linked to these conditions.

There are many simple lifestyle modifications that can provide some pain relief to those suffering from rheumatic conditions, such as losing weight and quitting smoking.

Treatments for Joint Pain

Heat, cold, and massage are all comforting to the stiff joints. Exercise might seem like the last thing on your mind (when climbing a flight of stairs feels like a marathon!), but ask your doctor about ways to incorporate low-impact activities into your routine. Swimming and cycling are two activities that can make your joints feel more fluid.

Sometimes, avoiding something that is harmful can be a treatment in and of itself. So, if you haven’t done so already, put down that cigarette. Smoking encourages faulty immune functioning, and it will only exacerbate your pain. In one study, researchers found that a person’s risk for RA decreased by one-third 15 years after they quit smoking – a very encouraging statistic.

Diet plays a role in reducing rheumatic pain, with certain foods reducing inflammation in joints. Turmeric, ginger, and fish oil have all been touted for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Be sure to speak with your doctor before starting any new diet plan, as only they can verify the safety of medication interaction.

Medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first-line approach to pain treatment by physicians is usually prescribing medications called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs. Unlike other medications that merely mask the pain, DMARDs aggressively address some of the root causes of the condition.

Used for RA – but also ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus – DMARDs help to subdue the body’s overactive immune responses. Finding the right medication for you may take some trial and error; in some cases, your rheumatologist might prescribe a cocktail (group) of medicines tailored to your specific needs.

Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Both physical and occupational therapies have been shown to greatly increase the quality of life for many RA sufferers. By modifying daily behaviors and engaging in certain exercises, these patients have learned how to overcome the pain of these debilitating diseases.

Pain clinics everywhere have also begun to incorporate psychological therapies for chronic pain into their offerings. These techniques address one aspect of pain that is often ignored – the emotional component.

Pain from the physical issues of RA can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness, with around 30 percent of people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis developing depression within five years of their diagnosis. Relaxation imagery, breathing, and mindfulness training have offered some much-needed peace of mind.

Help for RA at Lynx Healthcare

One thing is clear: Pain management for RA and for any other chronic condition requires a multidisciplinary approach – and plenty of patience. Seeking the advice of a trusted physician will put you on the right path toward achieving pain relief.

For more information about comprehensive care for rheumatic arthritis and other chronic pain issues, call Lynx Healthcare at (509) 591-0070 or use our online chat feature to ask questions or to request an appointment. We look forward to hearing from you.

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