Rheumatoid Arthritis- what you need to know
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is most likely to show up between the ages of 30 and 50 but also can show up later in life as we go over 60. Before I talk about causes and treatment tips let's talk about how joints work.
Bone joints are held together by tendons that connect muscles to bones and ligaments that connect bones to bones. The bones need to be isolated from touching each other directly otherwise the resulting friction causes wear or spurs.
Each bone is covered with a cartilage which forms a smooth surface to reduce friction, The joint cavity space is filled with “motor oil” (synovial fluid) that lubricates the joint, helping further reduce friction.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) ?
RA is an autoimmune condition. Our immune system has two sides. When our body first detects a virus, bacterial infection, or injury, we the pro-inflammatory immune system kicks in to attack the invader and remove damaged cells from a wound site. The anti-inflammation response is the opposite reaction. As the pro-inflammatory response fades, the anti-inflammatory process takes over restoring everything back to normal. Autoimmune disorders happen when the pro-inflammatory side stays turned on too long and and starts attacking healthy cells.
What causes RA?
Arthritis may occur if the structure of the bone joint is damaged in any way.
Genetic disorders. A friend of mine was born with a slight misalignment in his hip structures. He skied double back diamond runs and played competitive soccer until 54. At 55 arthritis set in and he could barely walk.
Injury. Direct damage to a joint that cannot be or is not property repaired can cause friction which further damages the joint, causing pain pain and loss of use.
Inactivity. Inactivity for any reason (e.g. a cast or just a lack of exercise) of a joint causes tendons and ligaments to shrink which can lead to RA if not addressed.
Repetitive Motion. We are designed to move, however, doing tasks like typing on the keyboard all day long when done at incorrect angles can damage the joint and cause injury.
Immune System disorders. If the immune system itself is out of balance favoring the pro-inflammatory side, RA can develop.
Can arthritis be cured?
Unfortunately there is no cure for arthritis. The best we can hope for is to slow it down.
Options for treatment include:
Surgery. This is the most invasive treatment and comes all of the associated risks of surgical approaches. My friend sports two metal hips and is walking again. Ask your doctor if surgery is right for you.
Lifestyle Changes. Physical therapy/movement following an injury post damage is critical to maintaining tendon/ligament flexibility. As is ongoing exercise. Move it or lose it. Also consider ergonomic desks and keyboards to relieve stress on wrists and fingers.
Medications. There are both prescription and non-prescription options for RA. Options include prescriptions to suppress the pro-inflammation immune response to treatments for pain relief. Consult your physician.
Dietary Changes. IWe wrote a five part overview of how the immune system works. ( Five Pillars); In the “blood” section, we covered how modern industrial diets changed the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fats creating the ideal conditions for autoimmune diseases to rise up. Consider changing your diet to foods and supplements rich in Omega 3 to balance.
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