Has your doctor recommended that you take more than one drug for rheumatoid arthritis? That’s combination therapy, and it can help you move better and with less pain. It could also slow or stop joint damage caused by RA.
When you first find out you have the condition, you probably start taking one drug, usually methotrexate. If that doesn’t give you enough relief, your doctor would add another drug. If your RA is more severe, your doctor may prescribe more than one medication right away.
Aerobic exercise -- like swimming, using cardio machines at the gym, or simply going for a brisk walk -- is not only possible when you have rheumatoid arthritis, it’s good for you, too. It's great for your heart and lungs, and it also:
Helps you move better
Makes everyday activities easier
Lifts your mood
May lower joint pain
Boosts bone density
“I highly encourage all my patients to do some form of exercise," says physical therapist Jan Richardson, PT, PhD, OCS, an emeritus...
You’ll probably take methotrexate as part of combination therapy, plus a similar drug (such as hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide, or sulfasalazine), or with a medication called a biologic.
Biologics are genetically engineered, and several types of them treat RA. They work on your immune system to curb joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. They can help you move better.
It may take some trial and error to find the medicines that together work best for you.
What to Expect
Combination therapy can mean less joint pain, morning stiffness, and inflammation. It can also help slow or stop your RA from getting worse. You might be able to have a more active life.
Some people go into remission, which means they don't have any joint pain, swelling, or other RA symptoms. The goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms as much as possible without side effects from your medicine.
Taking more than one medication can't reverse joint damage that you already have, and it isn’t a cure. But it can prevent further damage and help you avoid other health problems that can come with rheumatoid arthritis, like heart attack and stroke.
Mark C. Genovese, MD, professor of medicine, Stanford University; co-chief, immunology and rheumatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA.
James R. O'Dell, MD, Larson professor of internal medicine, University of Nebraska; chief of rheumatology and immunology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha; secretary, American College of Rheumatology.