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Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis -- Treatment

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Surgery and Rheumatoid Arthritis

If joint pain and inflammation become truly unbearable or joints simply refuse to function, some people choose joint replacement surgery. Today, joint replacement is commonly done on the hips and knees and sometimes the shoulders. Surgery can dramatically improve pain and mobility and is typically done after age 50, because artificial joints tend to wear down after 15 to 20 years.

Some joints, such as the ankles, don't respond well to artificial replacement and do better with joint fusion.

Physical and Occupational Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Physical and occupational therapy are key components of any rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan.

Physical therapists focus on helping you be able to keep moving around. They can help you design an exercise plan, teach you the appropriate use of heat and ice, perform therapeutic massage, and even provide motivation and encouragement.

Occupational therapists help you keep doing things you are used to doing every day. They can evaluate your daily activities, determine what you may be doing to stress your joints, and teach you easier ways to accomplish daily activities. They can also determine which assistive devices can help you throughout the day.

Managing Daily Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Because one of the most trying aspects of rheumatoid arthritis is learning to live with pain, many doctors recommend pain management training. Cognitive therapy for pain management combines behavior modification with relaxation techniques. These programs focus on improving emotional and psychological well-being by teaching you how to relax and conduct daily activities at a realistic pace.

Learning to overcome mental stress and anxiety can be the key to coping with the physical limitations that may accompany chronic arthritis. Cognitive therapy may include various techniques for activity scheduling, guided imagery, relaxation, distraction, and creative problem-solving.

Exercise, Joint Pain, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Not only can exercise help rheumatoid arthritis, it’s a vital part of rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

When joints are stiff and painful, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. Yet with rheumatoid arthritis, exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do.

  • People who exercise live longer, with or without rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Regular exercise can actually reduce overall pain from rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Exercise can keep bones strong. Thinning of the bones can be a problem with rheumatoid arthritis, especially if you need to take steroids. Exercise helps bones keep their strength.
  • Exercise maintains muscle strength.
  • Regular exercise improves functional ability and lets you do more for yourself.
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis who exercise feel better about themselves and are better able to cope with problems.

Natural Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are a variety of alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis. Let your doctor know if you're considering them. 

Heat and cold: The use of heat and cold is one of the best natural treatments to help ease rheumatoid arthritis joint pain. Cold compresses reduce joint swelling and inflammation. Heat compresses relax muscles and stimulate blood flow.

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