Resources for People Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis is a common disorder that affects your joints and can cause inflammation making it difficult to move. Arthritis usually affects the feet, hands, hips, knees, and lower back, which typically worsens with age. There are various ways to help alleviate symptoms of arthritis and gain support from foundations and groups for people suffering from the disease. Versus Arthritis is an example of a UK foundation that offers a wide range of activities including physical activities, talks with healthcare professionals, and social activities for a chance to meet people who know what it's like to live with arthritis.

Resources for People Living with Arthritis

There are many types of arthritis with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Currently, there’s no cure for arthritis but there are various treatments that can help manage the condition.

These include medication, occupational or physical therapy, therapeutic injections, and surgeries. Changing your routine can also help you live with arthritis easier. 

Types of Arthritis

 The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout. Osteoarthritis causes changes in the bones and deterioration of the connective tissues. Rheumatoid Arthritis causes pain and swelling of the joints. Psoriatic Arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis usually accompanied by psoriasis. Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis caused by uric acid.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJ), is the most common type of arthritis and it usually develops as people age. Usually, the changes in osteoarthritis develop slowly over the years. Inflammation and injury to joints can cause changes in the bones, deterioration of tendons and ligaments, and cartilage breakdown which causes pain and swelling. 

There are two types of osteoarthritis: primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is the most common type and usually affects the fingers, thumb, spine, hips, knees, and toes. Secondary osteoarthritis occurs with a pre-existing joint abnormality including injury from sports, inflammatory arthritis, or genetic joint disorders.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, progressive, and disabling autoimmune disease. It causes pain, swelling, and inflammation around the joints and can affect the other body organs. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the hands and feet but can occur in any joints in the body. 

Some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include fatigue, the stiffing of the joints especially after waking up in the morning or after sitting down for a while. The Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network estimates that RA affects 1% of the world’s population. 

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by joint pain, swelling and morning stiffness. It is usually associated with having psoriasis. Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune diseases in which certain cells in the body attack other cells and tissues of the body. Psoriatic arthritis can vary from mild to severe and sometimes affects four or more joints in the body. It can also affect the spine, hips, and shoulders but they are less common.

Gout

Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis due to a crystal called uric acid. Gout causes pain and swelling in one or more joints including the knee, ankle, foot, wrist, and below. It usually affects the big toe. 

Gout usually occurs more in men than women because men have higher uric acid. Women generally get it after menopause as this is the time women reach that certain level of uric acid. Gout is caused when the body produces too much uric acid. When the body has high levels of uric acid, the crystals can concentrate in the joints.

What Causes Arthritis?

The cause of arthritis depends on the type, but most are thought to be caused by a fault in the immune system that causes the body to attack its tissues in the joints. Some of the common causes of arthritis are:

  • Overusing of the joints
  • Age
  • Injuries 
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Genes or family history
  • Muscle weakness

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Activity and Diet

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis is hard. But there are a lot of ways you can do to help manage your symptoms. Taking care of yourself is also a big part of RA treatment. When you experience joint pain and stiffness, try to stay active as possible to help ease your symptoms and prevent long problems. 

You can do lots of different exercises at home including stretching. Stretching helps you get warmed up and cooled down. You can also do low-impact aerobic exercises at home to keep your heart strong without hurting your joints. 

Walking, swimming, or reading a book are good options for people with rheumatoid arthritis. You can also do strengthening exercises including lifting light weights as this will keep your muscles strong. 

Aside from exercising, you also have to eat a balanced and healthy diet to fight inflammation. Eat foods that are full of omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, and sardines, that curb chemicals called cytokines which increases inflammation. Omega-3 rich foods ease joint pain and shorten the time you have stiffness in the morning. 

Clinical Advice

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system begins to attack its tissue. Doctors would usually test fluids in the body including blood, urine, and joint fluid to know what type of arthritis you have. 

Currently, there’s no cure for RA but treatments such as medications, occupational and physical therapies can help reduce inflammation in the joints. 

According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, some of the medications you can take for RA are Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biological treatments. If you can’t take DMARDs or biologicals, you can also try JAK inhibitors, which is available on NHS.

Home Remedies for Arthritis

Here are some of the most effective home remedies for arthritis symptoms:

  1. Water exercises. Water exercises are helpful as water helps support body weight which helps relieve pressure on the joints.
  2. Weight loss. Losing weight can ease pressure on the joints, reducing pain and stiffness. 
  3. Tai chi. This low impact exercise incorporates slow and gentle movements to increase flexibility, balance, and muscle strength.
  4. Yoga. Yoga focuses on the body’s alignment and supports the body to relieve tension and inflammation.
  5. Hot or cold therapy. Heat therapy helps with blood circulation and can soothe stiff joints. Cold therapy restricts blood vessels which slow circulation, reduces swelling and numbs joint pain.
  6. Massage. Any type of full-body massage therapy that involves moderate pressure helps relieve arthritis pain. Massages lower the body’s production and also improve mood by boosting serotonin levels.
  7. Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps build strong bones and maintain the function of the immune system as vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium which is essential in building strong bones. 
  8. Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body and regulate the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids have immunomodulatory properties and act as precursors to lipid mediators of inflammation. 
  9. Acupuncture. Acupuncture may improve function and quality of life for people with RA as this treatment helps in relieving pain.

Managing Your Symptoms

There are a lot of things you can do to manage your arthritis symptoms. 

Pain. For pain, finding the right pain medication is knowing the benefits and the possible side effects. These can vary from person to person and will depend on how long they’re used for. You can use pain killers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). You can also do occupational or physical treatments, and acupuncture to manage your pain. 

Fatigue. Fatigue is also a symptom of arthritis. It’s your body’s reaction to a build-up of stressful events or experiences. There are several ways you can do to reduce the impact of fatigue. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend you to take blood tests. But usually, doctors recommend patients to see physiotherapists or occupational therapists.

Sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your health and worsen your arthritis. Improving your sleep can help alleviate arthritis symptoms. Exercising and getting in a good routine can improve your sleep.

Footwear. Good footwear can also provide support and comfort to your feet which is important if you have arthritis.

How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect How People See Themselves?

Arthritis can be really hard to deal with. Some women with RA worry that they should not go through childbearing because of the medications they take. But rheumatologists or gynaecologists suggest that taking RA medications won’t affect a woman’s pregnancy. 

Some people are also concerned with their appearance because in some cases, choosing shoes can be quite difficult for people with RA. The pain and discomfort RA brings can also cause some people to quit jobs and feel weak. These feelings should not take over life as RA can be managed and helped.

There is Support

If you live with RA, know that you are not alone. There are support groups, forums, charities that support people with RA.

1. Versus Arthritis 

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation

3. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society

4. Arthritis National Research Foundation

What is Versus Arthritis

About Versus Arthritis

Versus Arthritis campaign to challenge the misconceptions around arthritis to ensure that it is recognised as a priority in the UK. They have trained advisors that you can call for help. They also have an online community where people can share experiences and advice. They also have face-to-face support in areas in the UK so it’s easier for people to talk to them.

Versus Arthritis (formerly called Arthritis Research) was founded in the UK in September 2018 but constituent parts were founded in 1936 (Empire Rheumatism Council) and 1947 (British Rheumatic Association). Versus Arthritis is a group of fundraisers, supporters, bakers, health professionals, volunteers, campaigners, and researchers.  

Diversity and Inclusion

Versus Arthritis create impact through funding world-leading research, providing support and information, campaigning for change and giving people with arthritis a voice. Their organisation is diverse and inclusive; a culture that nurtures and empowers every individual to flourish and reach their full potential.

Values

Versus Arthritis promises to be clear, honest and open about who they are and what they do. They manage their resources responsibly and consider the impact of their fundraisings on their donors, supporters and the wider public. 

Online Pages, Groups, and Blogs

You can follow Versus Arthritis on their other social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube. Arthritis can be really hard to manage and people don’t know that there are many support groups and blogs that discuss arthritis experiences. Here’s a list of 9 Arthritis blogs you can check out:

  1. Chronic Eileen by Eileen Davidson. Eileen Davidson was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia over 2 years. She began writing Chronic Eileen to tell people about her struggles with her diseases with progressing anxiety and depression.
  2. It’s Just a Bad Day by Julie Cerrone. Julie Cerrone lives with psoriatic arthritis, depression, anxiety and more. Her blog is all about how she battles her diseases as well as creating a support system for people living with a chronic condition.
  3. Carla’s Corner by Carla Kienast. Carla Kienast was diagnosed with RA in 2008 and had been through 19 surgeries. She discusses her drug treatments with a sense of humour that her readers love.
  4. Not Standing Still’s Disease by Kirsten Schultz. Kirsten Schultz was diagnosed with systemic juvenile arthritis or Still’s Disease. She is also a sex educator and an advocate for the gender-fluid and transgender community. 
  5. From This Point. Forward. by Mariah Leach. Mariah Leach was diagnosed with RA when she was 25. She also writes for health websites and pays attention to mothers living with RA through her articles on parenting and sex.
  6. Rising Above RA by Effie Koliopoulos. Effie Kolipoulos was an athletic teenager diagnosed with RA. In her blog, she writes about how RA intersects with all parts of her life, including relationships, nutrition, and spirituality.
  7. Arthritic Chick by Janine Monty. Janine Monty takes on a more medical approach to RA. She also shares an entire guide on arthritis prescription medication. 
  8. The Old Lady in My Bones by Julia Chayko. Julia Chayko was diagnosed with RA at the age of 38. In her blog, she shares what it’s like living with RA and how you can live a fulfilling life despite the disease.
  9. Rachel + Reum by Rache Sauls. Rachel Sauls was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was just 11 years old. In her blog, she shares what it’s like to live with a chronic condition among her college colleagues who may not understand her daily struggles. 

Phone Numbers for Help

You can contact these numbers below to help answer questions with arthritis including finding a physician, joining support groups, and medication assistance.

  • Versus Arthritis: 0300 790 0400
  • Arthritis Foundation: 1-800-283-7800
  • National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society: 01628 823524
  • Arthritis National Research Foundation: (800) 588-2873
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation (02) 8726 8875

Takeaway

Arthritis is not easy to live with but there are a lot of ways you can do to change, overcome, or cope with the problems it presents. These include medications, exercises, and self-care activities. Learning as much as possible about arthritis is also one way for you to understand and accept the reality of having the disease.