For people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the following treatments can help to manage pain, inflammation, stiffness, and decreased functioning:
Application of Heat
Heat improves blood circulation to the treated area. Applying heat via warm soaks, whirlpools, paraffin, or heating pads can be very soothing. Most doctors recommend that you apply the heat for about 10 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day.
Application of Cold
Cold can help decrease inflammation in an affected joint, thereby relieving pain and improving stiffness and movement.
Apply an ice pack for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times each day. Do not put the ice directly on the unprotected skin.
Intra-articular Corticosteroid Injections
In this therapy, the affected joint is injected with a solution containing a corticosteroid medication such as:
- Methylprednisolone (Medrol)
- Triamcinolone (Aristocort)
Steroids can help decrease inflammation and therefore pain in the joint. Sometimes, your doctor will remove excess joint fluid from the joint just before injecting the steroid medicine.
Steroid injections often have to be repeated every several months. Most practitioners believe that you shouldn’t get more than three or four such injections in a year. More injections may cause damage to the joint cartilage.
Physical therapy can help you decrease pain and stiffness, increase muscle strength, develop flexibility, and improve stamina. Physical therapists can teach you exercises to do on your own, or you can attend regular physical therapy sessions.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Stress Reduction Techniques
If you are having trouble getting around, a cane or walker may help. In addition, a variety of devices are available to help you with tasks that RA can make difficult or impossible, such as buttoning or zipping your clothing, opening jars, opening doors, and other activities of daily living. Talk to your doctor about the kinds of assistance you need. He may recommend a consultation with an occupational therapist.
Apheresis (Prosorba Column)
This is a treatment that involves filtering your blood through a medical device that removes antibodies. The rest of the blood is then returned to you. The procedure takes about 2 hours and is usually done weekly for 12 weeks. Most patients don’t notice improvement of their symptoms until around the 12-week mark. Side effects may include:
- Achy muscles
- Fever and chills
- Reviewer: Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 09/2011 -
- Update Date: 10/03/2011 -