Your Essential Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options

A rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diagnosis can be alarming. You’re already in pain and the doctor says there’s no cure – and the disease can get worse over time. The good news is there are plenty of rheumatoid arthritis treatment options out there. Some treatments help with symptoms, while others help to slow the progression of the disease. Everyone’s treatment plan is different, but finding the right combination of holistic and medical treatment options can help provide pain relief from rheumatoid arthritis. If you are suffering from stiffness, joint pain, and other complications of arthritis, you can minimize these symptoms through a holistic approach with natural and home remedies. Along with holistic options, you should also work with a doctor or care team to find the best medication to suit your personal needs. Familiarize yourself with holistic options to minimize RA symptoms and medical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis so that you can make an action plan today.

Take a Holistic Approach to Combat Rheumatoid Arthritis

Nowadays, many doctors and care teams take a holistic approach to your health. They may ask not just about symptoms, but also about overall health and lifestyle choices that contribute to wellness in order to devise personalized treatment plans. Rather than just attending to the disease with medical treatments, your doctor may suggest holistic methods like acupuncture as well as diet and lifestyle changes to help you cope with RA. Here are some examples of holistic ways to minimize RA symptoms:

Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce overall inflammation in your body. This, in turn, will help your RA symptoms as your pain from inflammation reduces. Simple changes, such as avoiding refined carbohydrates, can be all it takes to help your body. If you’re not sure how to start, your rheumatology consultant may be able to recommend a nutrition expert to further advise you on a personalized food plan.

Consider Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient remedy that has stood the test of time. It is an age-old healing practice of traditional Chinese medicine in which thin needles are placed at specific points in the body. It is primarily used to relieve pain and has been used to treat other conditions. This method may provide added pain relief when used along with pain medicine or another therapy. It also helps reduce the need for drugs and improve the quality of life of some people with chronic pain.

Practice Yoga

The stretching, strengthening and soothing effects of yoga can also help people living with rheumatoid arthritis. This exercise can help reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function, and lower stress and tension for better sleep. 

Electrotherapy For Pain Relief

Managing your day-to-day pain is the hardest part of RA. Some days you’ll feel fine, while other days you will want to stay in bed all day. Electrotherapy devices like BioWaveGO® help you to manage your pain wherever you are – so you don’t have to let RA interrupt your life. Electrical impulses sent through the skin create a nerve block that can last up to 24 hours to significantly reduce your pain. Learn how BioWaveGO can be a part of your management and rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan.

Medical Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are a variety of effective medical treatments to help manage RA symptoms. The goal of treatment is to lessen the pain, minimize joint damage and improve quality of life. Along with natural remedies, medical options to treat RA may be necessary to control inflammation. Medical treatments like the following may be prescribed by your doctor:

Prescription Painkillers

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first step to RA treatment. Common NSAIDs, such as naproxen, may be recommended to help minimize your pain. Taking NSAIDs long-term can affect the stomach. Your physician may prescribe additional medication to prevent damage to your stomach lining if you take NSAIDs. NSAIDs are an inexpensive and readily available treatment option for pain. They’re effective in reducing pain for a few hours; however, they’re not the only painkiller option you may be offered.  Your physician may also recommend opioid-based painkillers depending on the severity of your pain. These types of painkillers are more effective at reducing pain but come with a high risk side effects – including opiate dependency. Other side effects include nausea, drowsiness, and mental confusion.

Corticosteroid Injections

Your doctor may prescribe a course of steroids in pill form to help manage inflammation and reduce your pain. However, you can also ask for corticosteroid injections directly into your worst-affected joints. These injections may provide longer-term pain relief than a pill-based development of steroids. However, cortisone shots in large doses and done frequently might damage the cartilage within the joints and may have other side effects such as nerve damage or temporary facial flushing.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) help people with rheumatoid arthritis by slowing the damage the disease causes to the body. Common DMARDs include:
  • Methotrexate
  • Sulfasalazine
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Leflunomide
Your rheumatology consultant may recommend a combination of these to start your treatment program. They can take several months to make a difference, so it’s important to start them as early as possible to make sure your RA doesn’t become more severe before you receive treatment. DMARDs can’t reverse RA, but they can help to slow the degenerative processes that affect your joints and make the disease worse over time.

Anti-TNF Biologic Drug Treatments

When RA progresses to a greater level of severity your physician will recommend trying anti-TNF biologic drugs. These drugs come with more serious side effects than DMARDs but have a good chance of significantly reducing the symptoms of serious RA. Most of the new biologics work by targeting a protein in the body called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). These drugs are still quite new and may be used as an alternative to, or in combination with, DMARDs. Both DMARDs and anti-TNF biologics treatments attack elements of the immune system to be effective. This means your immune system can become compromised, leaving you prone to infections and other illnesses. However, they will significantly reduce the progression of the disease, so it’s important to discuss your options with your consultant before you decide whether to try these treatments.

Surgical Options

Some RA patients benefit from surgical intervention to manage their pain. Hip replacements, for example, can help reduce the pain of eroded cartilage in the natural hip socket. Surgery isn’t always as serious as hip replacements. Smaller procedures, such as arthroscopy on the knee, help to clean out and smooth roughened cartilage in the joint to reduce pain. Treating RA is a long-term commitment – but when you create a custom treatment plan that includes both holistic and medical treatments, you can gain better control of your pain and your life. Work closely with your doctor to come up with a pain management plan that is suitable for you. Following it will not only help minimize your symptoms but can also help prevent the progression of RA.