Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes joint and muscle pain. There is no cure for RA, but getting treatment early can help manage the condition, keep you active, and improve your quality of life.
The goals of RA treatment include:
- Reduce inflammation
- reduce pain
- Prevention or slowing down of joint and organ damage
Read on to learn more about treatment options for RA – from strategies you can use at home to prescription medications and supportive therapies.
Here are several strategies you can use at home to help relieve symptoms of RA.
- Eat a nutritious diet. By giving your body the nutrients it needs, you can reduce inflammation.
- Maintain an active lifestyle. Integrating exercise into your daily routine can help reduce your RA symptoms.
- Take your time for rest. It’s important to take breaks when you need them and not try to overcome pain or swelling.
- Use heat to soothe stiff joints. Warm baths and heating pads can help relax stiff joints.
- Use cold to calm inflammation. Ice packs can numb your pain and reduce inflammation.
- Apply topical products. Stick-on creams, gels, and patches can help relieve pain in your joints and muscles.
- Try supplements. Some studies have shown that omega-3 fish oil and turmeric can help relieve the pain of RA. Always talk to your doctor before you start taking any supplements.
Your doctor may prescribe different medications to treat your RA. These drugs include:
- Disease-Modifying Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (DMARDs). DMARDs can help reduce the symptoms of RA and slow their progression. People often take a combination of two different DMARDs to treat their RA.
- Biological treatments. Biological treatments are often done when DMADs alone have not been effective. These treatments are given by injection and work in combination with DMARDs.
- JAK inhibitors. JAK inhibitors are a newer type of DMARD that are sometimes used to treat severe RA. They are an option for people who are not getting relief from traditional DMARDs or biological treatments.
- Pain Management Drugs. Prescription medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, muscle relaxants, or opioids can be used to relieve the pain of an RA attack.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are sometimes prescribed short-term to reduce inflammation.
Supportive therapies such as physical therapy and occupational therapy can be beneficial for managing RA pain.
- Physical therapy. Physiotherapy is a great way to relieve your pain by increasing your flexibility and strengthening your muscles.
- Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can show you moves and techniques that can make your job easier, and recommend supporting equipment.
- Podiatry. A podiatrist may recommend special shoes or insoles that will reduce pressure on your joints and relieve pain.
- Complementary therapies. Some people find relief through massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and other complementary therapies.
- Operations. RA sometimes requires surgical treatment to repair damaged joints or to relieve pressure on your nerves.