What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that directly impacts the function of the joints. In the event of this condition, one’s immune system attacks its own tissues within the body, directly impacting the soft tissues that surround the joints of the body. The most affected joints are the feet, ankles, knees, hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Additionally, women are more likely to experience the disease and are diagnosed three times more frequently than men. The condition causes inflammation and swelling in the joints that limits the functionality of the area on the body. It affects approximately one1% of the population and affects many of the physical abilities of those affected. The condition slowly progresses over time and can progressively limit daily life functions. There are many at home management strategies that can be used to alleviate symptoms and to improve one’s experiences with the condition. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but physical therapy has been effective in improving one’s experience with the disease.

Signs & Symptoms

There are many rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms that can assist in identifying the condition. At times, symptoms can feel more severe than other times, thus making some days worse than others. Symptoms include but are not limited to: stiff joints that often feel more severe in the morning, pain and swelling in the joints throughout the entire body, general fatigue, slight feverish sensation, loss of appetite, limited range of motion, and warmth and redness in the joints. One experiencing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may notice that the signs commonly start in the smaller joints and progress into the larger joints as time passes.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis causes are typically unknown. Through research, many occurrences are often linked to the development of the disease, such as genetics, hormones, and other environmental factors. Rheumatoid arthritis results from triggers in the immune system that end up attacking the joints, thus commonly linking the disease to genetics. The cause of the pain comes from fluid buildup in the joints, thus resulting in inflammation.

Risk Factors

Rheumatoid arthritis risk factors vary in every patient. The strongest risk factor is age. Although the condition can occur at any age, the likelihood of its occurrence increases as age increases. Typically, most cases are often seen in middle-aged individuals. The next most prevalent risk factor is sex. Rheumatoid arthritis is more commonly seen in women, so gender plays a crucial role in the diagnosis of the condition. Additional risk factors include but are not limited to: genetics, smoking habits, environmental factors and early life exposures, weight gain, and live births.

When to See a Doctor

When dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, it is important to know when to see a doctor. When experiencing symptoms of the condition, it is always a good idea to seek medical care. It is important to seek medical care if the symptoms worsen over time.

In diagnosing the issue, there is much that can be considered. When seeking medical care, the physical therapist or medical provider may be the first to recognize the problem. The symptoms will be identified and then sent over to a specialist for further analysis. In the process, inflammation of the joints, the number of joints involved, and blood test results will be considered.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment options can vary. Non-surgical approaches to treat the condition include medications to help lessen pain, inflammation, and swelling. Another treatment option is the practice of limiting physical activity and stress on the area. In doing so, the joints can be given the time to rest and will not be in any situation to worsen.

Another effective form of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is occupational therapy. A therapist will help in the creation of a healing plan and ways in which to accomplish healing goals for your overall joint health.

There are many at-home remedies to help treat your condition. The use of assistive tools can help lessen your pain, finding alternative ways to handle tasks, and most of all, at home exercise can all benefit your experience with the disease.

Physical Therapy

One of the most successful and effective non-surgical treatment options is physical therapy. Physical therapists can advise on how to improve one’s quality of life when dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor will create a plan on how to assist in joint flexibility and strength of the affected areas. They will advise on how to improve life functions in terms of resting the joints. Physical therapists will also advise ice, heat, electrical simulation, and other pain-relief methods to help in short-term improvement situations. Physical therapists know much about the mechanics of bones, joints, and muscles as well as the ways in which they all work together. In the beginning stages of the disease and in your physical therapy journey, your provider will assess the strength of the joints and then work to keep them healthy.

It is important to choose the physical therapist wisely to ensure that you are receiving the best care for your condition. It is always important to regard that the therapist is board-certified and has completed a residency in order to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge, and experiences to assist in improving your condition. When looking for a physical therapist, you may want to receive recommendations from those around you such as family, friends, and other health care providers. Additionally, you must be prepared to give the most detailed description of your signs and symptoms to ensure that you are informing the doctor on all you possibly can. You do not want to leave out any important information regarding your experience with rheumatoid arthritis.

Physical therapy exercises for rheumatoid arthritis include physical exercise as well as heat and ice remedies. Flexibility, strength, and cardio are some of the most beneficial exercises in physical therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Flexibility allows for the joints to stretch and maintain mobility. Strength allows for muscle gain in the joints to ensure movement. Cardio, especially aerobic exercise in the form of swimming and cycling, keeps the body active and keeps the joints in motion. These exercises keep the joints active while also limiting the amount of stress that is put on them.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Prevention in Long Island

There is much that can be done to ensure that rheumatoid arthritis is prevented and does not worsen over time. Prevention strategies include but are not limited to: avoiding lifting heavy objects, avoid putting stress on the joints of the body, work slowly and take breaks when performing physical activities, keep moving to increase activity levels, reduce salt intake in your diet, increase vegetables, fish, fruit, olive oil, nuts, and grains in your diet, limit sugar-sweetened drinks, improve oral health, limit alcohol consumption, limit exposure to pollutants of the environment, and utilize helpful and assistive tools to perform daily activities. In considering these prevention strategies, you can lessen your risk of developing the condition as a whole or can limit the progression of the already existing condition within your daily life.

For more information about physical therapy for rheumatoid arthritis in Long Island and Nassau County, contact Hicksville Physical Therapy today.

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