According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, an estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis pain. The deep ache and stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the body, and the pain can vary from a mild nuisance to debilitating.
While the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, it is believed several factors can play into its development. Genetic predispositions, autoimmune abnormalities, environmental factors, hormonal dysfunctions and even viral infections can trigger the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis pain is caused by an abnormal autoimmune response. The body’s immune system causes the soft tissues lining joints, called the synovium, to become inflamed and painful. This chronic inflammation can also lead to joint damage and, in turn, cause osteoarthritis pain. Rheumatoid arthritis and the associated pain often get progressively more advanced.
While the aches and pains are often constant, flare-ups of more severe symptoms are common. Rheumatoid arthritis and lower back pain flare-ups can be triggered by stress, improper sleep, illness, extreme temperatures and even foods containing inflammatory compounds such as caffeine. However, many flare-ups have no discernible cause.
There are several approaches to treating rheumatoid arthritis. The most common method is treating the inflammation directly. If over-the-counter painkillers do not help, a doctor may prescribe a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARD) are also commonly prescribed. DMARDs slow the progression of RA, but they have more side effects than standard NSAIDs.
Biologic Response Modifiers (biologic DMARDs) are prescribed when standard DMARDs are ineffective. They modify or block certain parts of the immune system to curb the inflammatory response. More mild immune system suppressants and corticosteroids may also be indicated to decrease inflammation. Physical therapy is also frequently recommended to help keep affected joint mobile and reduce pain.
Many RA sufferers compliment their prescription treatment with home remedies they have discussed with their doctor. Low-impact yoga is a popular system of stretching and joint mobilization that may also help RA sufferers cope with stress. Avoiding so-called “trigger foods” such as caffeine and red meat while incorporating high amounts of anti-inflammatory antioxidants is also a popular choice. Regular massage can also reduce inflammation and stress levels.
More research is being done into the causes of rheumatoid arthritis and RA pain treatment. As more is learned, more effective treatments will hopefully emerge.