Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis|Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments

Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

In general, arthritis is a common pain condition marked by inflammation of the joints. The inflammation causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Such inflammation is largely common to all types of arthritis.  


Rheumatoid arthritis is a specific type of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the result of the immune system mistaking healthy cartilage for being diseased, and consequently it attacks the cartilage of the joints. Over time, the immune system erodes the cartilage. The subsequent loss of cartilage causes inflammation when the joints are used. In turn, the inflammation causes pain, joint stiffness, and swelling. In advanced stages, the joints become deformed.


Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly occurs in the hands and fingers, but can occur in any joint.


Because it involves the immune system reacting to normal tissue, rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disorder.  


Central sensitization is a common complication of rheumatoid arthritis. Meeus M., Vervisch, S., De Clerck, L. S., Moorkens, G., Hans, G., & Nijs, J. (2012). Central sensitization in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic literature review. Seminars in Arthritis & Rheumatism, 41, 556-567. Central sensitization is a highly reactive state of the central nervous system, which amplifies pain. It also can cause sensitivity to touch, fatigue, poor sleep, anxiety, and sometimes depression. It can occur with any pain disorder, including rheumatoid arthritis. It is important to address in treatment when it occurs.  


Is there a cure for rheumatoid arthritis?

It is important to know that there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. It is considered a chronic condition. Just because there is no cure, patients should not become hopeless.  Persons with chronic health conditions need to redefine what having hope means. Hope in the context of a chronic health condition, like rheumatoid arthritis, means having a realistic plan to get better and “better” is defined by the following:

  • Having less pain and other symptoms

  • Being able to do more activities, like stay at work or return to work

  • Needing less pain medications

  • Being less distressed about pain

  • Needing to seek healthcare less


Therapies and procedures for rheumatoid arthritis

Common treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid medications, chemotherapies, physical therapy, cortisone injections, and chronic pain rehabilitation programs. Treatments that address central sensitization are antidepressant medications (which are used for pain), anti-seizure medications (which also are used for pain), and chronic pain rehabilitation programs.  



Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is the executive director of the Institute for Chronic Pain. The Institute for Chronic Pain is an educational and public policy think tank. Its purpose is to bring together thought leaders from around the world in the field of chronic pain rehabilitation and provide academic-quality information that is also approachable to all the stakeholders in the field: patients, their families, generalist healthcare providers, third party payers, and public policy analysts. Its aim is to change the culture of how chronic pain is managed through education and consultation efforts that advocate for the use of empirically supported conceptualizations and treatments of chronic pain. He also blogs at the Institute for Chronic Pain Blog.



Last Updated on Friday, 23 October 2015 15:41

Published on Friday, 27 April 2012 13:35

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