Question: My doctor said I probably have rheumatoid arthritis, so I should just get accustomed to the pain, take my medications, and work through it. What do you think?
Unfortunately, some healthcare providers label anything that is painful as "arthritis." The word has virtually lost its meaning as a result. If you were told you had rheumatoid arthritis, I am going to assume for this discussion that you had lab work for verification of the diagnosis.
Rheumatic diseases include more than 100 conditions, including doubt, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and others. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the rheumatic diseases that affects about 1% of the population, or nearly 3,000,000 people. It often begins in middle age and is more frequent in older generations, but young people and children can also suffer from it.
What distinguishes rheumatoid arthritis from other arthritic conditions? The joints are tender, warm, and swollen. You may experience fatigue, sometimes with fever, associated with just feeling lousy. The pain and stiffness may last for more than 30 minutes after a long rest. The wrist and finger joints closest to the hand are the ones most affected. Your neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, and feet can also be affected. This condition is symmetrical, so if you have it in one hand, you will have it in the other as well.
Exercise is critically important. It will help maintain healthy and strong muscles, joint mobility, flexibility, endurance, and body weight. This should be countered with adequate rest to decrease the active joint inflammation, pain, and fatigue. Balance between exercise and rest will be the key to maintaining joint function.
Consider regular range of motion exercises. Stretching and dancing are great ways to do this, and they can be fun in a group, such as a yoga or Pilates class. You will find people in these groups who are also coping with long-term pain and stiffness, and shared support is important to you.
Strength training/weightlifting will help you maintain muscle strength and tone. Your goal is not the bulk up, but to maintain adequate muscle tone to overcome the stiffness in your condition. Aerobic or endurance exercises, such as walking, swimming, or riding a bike will be very helpful in maintenance of muscle tone and body weight.
Losing weight if you are heavy will make a great deal of difference by offloading major weight-bearing joints, such as the sacroiliac joints or knees. Decreasing wear and tear may prevent stress points that can become targets for your rheumatoid condition.
You may want to look at natural ways to decrease the inflammatory process. I have seen research to suggest that an alkaline diet helps drive down the inflammatory process systemically, and you can accomplish this by adding green leafy vegetables to your daily regimen. Omega-3 can be supplemented in amounts greater than what we used to control cholesterol, and that is also anti-inflammatory. Include deep-sea fish (salmon, tuna, herring, and halibut) in your diet once or twice a week.
I have also had good results with another natural anti-inflammatory agent, the primary ingredient of which is methionine, an amino acid that is required in our diet. Since it is a basic part of our diet, there is less possibility of a negative reaction.
I have also had superior results with rheumatoid disease using our infrared sauna. The health benefits of the sauna are derived from the direct infrared rays that penetrate deeply into inflamed tissues, but there is also an indirect benefit from higher body temperature. The relief that you feel when you sit in a car that has been in the sun for a while is probably familiar to you, and that is infrared heat derived from the sun. We can reproduce that in the sauna with a controlled, comfortable temperature.
There is also a variety of chiropractic techniques that can very comfortably maintain the mobility of your joints. The central and most important issue in living with this condition is maintaining your mobility. If you need it, we can also arrange home electrotherapy to help you control pain so that you can move more comfortably.
Your doctor will prescribe medications that are designed to reduce the inflammatory process. Many of these will compromise your immune system and have some harsh side effects. If you work at the things I have mentioned above, you may need fewer of those medications, and the fewer of some of those, the better off you will be. Call me if I can help.