1.5 million individuals suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis in the the U.S.
RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system, which is meant to protect your body, attacks healthy cells in your body. RA occurs when the immune system attacks your joints, thickening the tissue lining the joints. This creates inflammation, pain, and swelling. If left untreated, it can ultimately result in loss of mobility.
While joint damage can be controlled, it cannot be fully healed. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is most effective in controlling RA. Medications and treatment can prevent worsening, but sadly many individuals still have to live with chronic pain.
In addition to swelling and stiffness, symptoms can include fatigue, loss of appetite, dry eyes and mouth, etc…
Caring for an individual with RA involves understanding the disease, along with all of its symptoms. Daily tasks that most accomplish with ease are difficult and painful with an individual with RA. For instance, making the bed or opening a jar of pickles are intimidating and burdensome.
Fortunately, there are many ways to ease pain, offer assistance, and increase comfort for those suffering from this autoimmune disease.
Seven Ideas for Rheumatoid Arthritis Support and Pain Relief
- Recognize painful tasks and take over. Before being asked, make it a habit to take over the small tasks that involve small joint movements such as opening jars and making the bed.
- Encourage daily relaxation.
- Ensure your loved one has time each day for deep breathing and progressive relaxation.
- “Start out by sitting or standing with your eyes closed. Next, slowly tense the muscles in your feet and calves, breathing in and holding for three to five seconds. Then, relax those muscles and breathe out. Continue with other muscles, working your way from your feet up to your neck. You can do this while deep breathing as well. If this technique causes you pain, stop” From Every Day Health.
- Exercise. Be sure your loved one is exercising as it helps, not hurts RA.
- Offer ice packs to your loved one throughout the day.
- Run a warm bath for your loved one.
- Help create a balanced diet to prevent weight gain, which is hard on joints.
- Create a consistent bedtime routine and a comfortable sleep environment.
- Sleep and recovery is critical for combating the fatigue of RA.
- Creating a relaxing bedtime routine will help obtain much needed sleep.
- A hot shower, removing all distractions from the bedroom, elevating the legs, and sleeping with an electric blanket will all help create good sleep habits.