Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where white blood cells suddenly attack healthy tissues, specifically joints and cartilage.  There are a few ways to help ease the symptoms, depending on which stage of the disease you are in.  If you are in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis there is a new disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) which has done an excellent job in controlling symptoms.  It works best in the initial stages, so if you suspect you may have rheumatoid arthritis, see your doctor as soon as possible.

There are other options if you are in later stages of rheumatoid arthritis.  These are also helpful if you are still in early stages.  One is to use anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.  This does a great job reducing pain and inflammation.  However, these have side effects including heart problems and gastrointestinal bleeding.  You can also use acetaminophen for your rheumatoid arthritis, which does not have these side effects.

When symptoms are mild, moderate exercising including stretching, weight lifting, and aerobics ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.  Be sure to rest when your joints flare up as this would just add strain to your aching joints.  Stretching is important because it increases flexibility and is easy enough to do at any age.  When stretching, stop when you feel mild discomfort and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.  Then repeat 3 to 5 times.  Weight lifting also improves flexibility as well as strength and balance.  Barbells are easy, convenient, and inexpensive.  Remember to stretch before lifting any weights.  Start with 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.  If you would like you can start with no weights at all (such as going leg lifts for rheumatoid arthritis in the knees), then add weights when you can.  Lift the weights slowly and evenly to not damage the cartilage.

Some other popular forms of exercise for rheumatoid arthritis are aqua therapy and Tai Chi.  Be sure to find an actual therapist as they have specific exercises they do for arthritis patients.  Aerobics instructors may push to far and do further damage.  Tai Chi has no long term studies proving its effectiveness, but due to testimonials from patients who have taken Tai Chi, the Arthritis Foundation began offering the class.  Remember to always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Some other ways to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain are to lose weight to take additional pressure off joints, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, using heat or ice, and possibly using devices such as a cane, brace, or splint.  There are many resources for additional information on rheumatoid arthritis including websites, flyers, periodicals, books, etc.  Your doctor should be able to provide you with some reference on where to look for additional help.

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