Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that leads to inflammation in different areas of the body, particularly the joints of the hands and the legs. This chronic condition can actually be quite painful.
Several studies have revealed that women are more likely to be affected by this condition as opposed to men. The symptoms associated with it start to develop during the middle age, and progress as the individual grows older. There are several different factors that contribute to the development of this disease, and in worst case scenarios, the disease may last for a lifetime and can hamper the quality of life of the individual.
Let’s take a closer look into understanding this disease in the lower limbs of the body, and uncovering the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in the legs.
Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Legs
Rheumatoid arthritis leads to chronic inflammation in the joints of the body. This autoimmune disorders occurs due to a malfunctioning of the immune system, wherein this system of the body, which is concerned with protecting it from external dangers, attacks its own body tissues. This in turn, leads to localized inflammation, which may then spread to other regions of the body as well.
Contrary to the popular belief, many individuals affected by this condition may not experience any symptoms for a good length of time. However, in most cases, it is characterized by the following signs and symptoms in varying levels of intensity.
- Swelling of the affected joints (joints of the leg such as the ankles and the toes).
- Tenderness in the area around the joints of the legs.
- Stiffness of the joints of the legs, which makes movement difficult.
- Redness of the area.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that progresses with time, which is why, taking appropriate measures to treat it is essential. Left untreated, it may lead to significant destruction of the joints of the leg, hamper movement and also cause deformity of these joints.
In severe cases, this form of arthritis may also spread to the nearby tissues, tendons, muscles and ligaments.
Understanding the Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Legs
Till date, scientists are still attempting to understand the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis and therefore, uncover its treatment. Currently, all treatment options and measures are aimed at reducing the severity of symptoms and slowing down the progression of the disease.
It has been found that early medical intervention can be of a huge help when it comes to improving the quality of life of those affected by this condition.
Once diagnosed, there are several possible treatment options an individual can opt for, mainly aimed at slowing down the destruction of joints, reducing pain, stiffness and inflammation and improving joint mobility in general.
Currently, the most common treatment for rheumatoid arthritis of the legs and almost all other body regions is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Sometimes, glucocorticoids and other anti-rheumatic drugs may also be prescribed.
These medications are best taken after the recommendation of a healthcare provider, and the appropriate dosage should be followed.
Joint aspiration basically refers to the removal of fluid that has been accumulated in the joints in an attempt to reduce pain and inflammation in the area. When combined with the use of medications, it can help relieve pain in individuals affected by rheumatoid arthritis as well as those affected by other joint conditions such as bursitis, osteoarthritis, gout, tendonitis, psoriatic arthritis etc.
This procedure is usually carried out in a hospital or office setting, and is requires the use of local anaesthesia.
The findings of a new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology have revealed that undergoing total knee replacement surgery could be of help for individuals affected by a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis of the knee. A significant decrease in pain, swelling, inflammation and other symptoms associated with the disease was noted following procedure.
While the long term safety and effectiveness of this form of treatment is still questionable, it could definitely prove to be a viable option for those affected by serious forms of this autoimmune disorder, particularly for those for whom other treatment options don’t work.
Light exercise turns out to be another great approach to deal with rheumatoid arthritis of the legs, and can significantly reduce the intensity of pain and inflammation associated with the disease. Engaging in low impact exercises can boost joint mobility, reverse muscle stiffness and improve flexibility as well.
Talk to your primary healthcare provider to understand the levels of physical activity you can engage in. In most cases, walking, light jogging and stair climbing are the best. If you haven’t been exercising in your daily life, start with just a few minutes a day and take it from there.
It has also been found that resistance exercises can help build stronger muscles, which will help support your joints.
Swimming can also be a great form of exercise that helps keep you active without putting excessive strain on your joints.
Dietary modifications too, can help manage the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Adding more of fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel can help calm down inflammation of the joints, according to Arthritis.org. It is presumed that this is due to the presence of omega 3 fatty acids in these fish, which is found to have valuable anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition, following a simple approach of keeping two-thirds of the diet composed of fruits, whole grains and vegetables (plant based) and reserving the remaining portion for low fat dairy products and lean meat sources is the best way to slow down progression of the disease.
In addition, some studies have found that increasing the intake of fiber and fiber rich foods could also help, since fiber reduces the level of a protein in blood, which is linked to inflammation.
To add to that, it has also been noted that extra virgin olive oil could be as effective as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug when it comes to controlling inflammation associated with the disease. Swapping your fat sources for this oil, and including more of vitamin D rich foods such as eggs, cereals, low fat milk etc could help.
A guideline sheet put down by the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center also emphasizes on the elimination of foods that are rich in sugars, carbohydrates, cholesterol, saturated fat and alcohol in order to preserve joint health and overall health.
Alternative medicine has recently gained a lot of popularity, and is thought to be highly effective in dealing with chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. While there is some debate going on about the effectiveness of these approaches, more and more studies are clarifying that a good majority of these treatment options indeed, do have a scientific background.
A systematic review in the year 2010 has linked the regular practise of mindfulness meditation to improvement in the condition of those affected by almost all types of mental and physical illnesses. This form of meditation can improve pain tolerance and bring relief from symptoms. A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness meditation was also found to be extremely helpful.
Acupuncture is now being widely accepted as a natural treatment for pain relief, including pain associated with different forms of arthritis.
A few studies have demonstrated the efficacy of the practise of Tai Chi for patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis. It was found that it improved muscle strength and endurance to a great extent, and in some cases, even proved to be helpful in pain management.
From reducing the intensity of pain and calming down inflammation of the joints to stimulating internal healing- yoga does a lot to help patients affected by arthritis. It is important to note that all yoga poses must be performed under the careful guidance of a trained professional, particularly for patients affected by arthritis. When done correctly, yoga can help improve joint flexibility and mobility and turn out to be an excellent treatment for rheumatoid arthritis of the legs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine includes several practises including acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese herbal medicine etc, and all these practises revolve around restoring the flow of energy properly within the different regions of the body, which stimulates healing. Infact, some studies have also found that these approaches could help reduce side effects associated with other different approaches used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in the legs.
Balneotherapy refers to the use of tap or mineral water for bathing purposes. Some small studies have emphasized on its effectiveness when it comes to dealing with many forms of autoimmune disorders.
Ayurvedic medicine is a specialized branch of healing which originated in India, and is now believed to help reduce the intensity of symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis by managing the disease with a combination of potent herbs and plant extract and following a particular lifestyle.
Many research studies have also collaborated on the use of aromatherapy for pain relief associated with this autoimmune disorder. In particular, using aromatherapy based products such as soaps, candles, bath salts infused with pain relieving plant extracts can help.
Other Treatment Options
In addition to the conventional treatment approaches, your healthcare provider may also recommend other treatment approaches to be carried out simultaneously so as to maximize the benefits and results.
Many practitioners recommend the intake of supplements in conjunction with the normal treatment for rheumatoid arthritis simply due to the fact that the combined action of both of these proves to be extra effective. Green tea, known for its antioxidant properties, is often recommended for individuals affected by the disease. Fish oil supplements and gamma linoleic acid supplements in particular, have also been found to improve the condition of those affected by this disease. These supplements basically work by providing the body a good dose of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which lower the levels of inflammatory chemicals and enzymes in the body, bringing about natural relief from symptoms. Certain collagen supplements are also thought to help by stimulating joint repair.
The use of herbs and plant extracts that contain anti-inflammatory properties can be profound when it comes to tackling rheumatoid arthritis the natural way. Turmeric and ginger in particular, are two plants found to have the maximum amount of anti-inflammatory properties, and adding more of those to your foods can help inhibit the spread of the disease. Boswellia is another herb known to contain a resin that exhibits anti-inflammatory action. The use of other commercially available herbal extracts should be done with care, since they may also lead to certain side effects, especially when used over a longer period of time.
Diet Based Approaches
Some healthcare providers also recommend that patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis should focus on following specific diets that help reduce the levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body, which thereby helps reduce the symptoms of the disease. This mainly revolves around cutting down on the consumption of meat & dairy products and processed foods.
In addition, the use of other devices and equipment such as pain relieving socks, cold/warm compresses etc could lessen the severity of pain and inflammation.
It is of utmost importance to discuss with your doctor before trying out any of these approaches when it comes to dealing with rheumatoid arthritis.