Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of arthritis that typically occurs in joints on both sides of the body, such as the hands or the knees. This is what helps distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other types of arthritis. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a combination of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors. With rheumatoid arthritis, something initiates the immune system to attack the joints, which makes treatment of rheumatoid arthritis particularly important. Research hasn’t been able to determine exactly what role genetics plays in rheumatoid arthritis. However, some people do seem to have a genetic or inherited factor that increases their chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include stiffness, fatigue and joint pain. As it progresses, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may feel like the flu and include muscle aches and loss of appetite. There is no single test that can clearly identify rheumatoid arthritis.
Instead, orthopedics physicians diagnose rheumatoid arthritis based on several factors that are associated with this disease and include:
- Morning stiffness in and around the joints lasting at least one hour.
- Swelling around three or more joint areas simultaneously.
- At least one swollen area in the wrist, hand, or finger joints.
- Swelling of the same joint on both sides of the body.
- Rheumatoid nodules or lumps in the skin of people with rheumatoid arthritis, usually in pressure points of the body, most commonly the elbows.
- Abnormal amounts of serum rheumatoid factor in the blood.
- X-ray changes in the hands and wrists typical of rheumatoid arthritis, with wearing away of bone around the involved joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is officially diagnosed if four or more of these seven factors are present. The first four must have been present for six weeks. The main treatment goals with rheumatoid arthritis are to control inflammation and slow or stop progression of the arthritis. Alaska orthopedics know that treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is best with multiple therapies, including medications, occupational therapy or physical rehab and regular exercise, and at Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab we are skilled at all of these therapies. Sometimes surgery is used to correct joint damage. Early, aggressive treatment is key to good results. And with today’s treatments, joint damage can be slowed or stopped in many cases. Unlike osteoarthritis, care must be taken by the chiropractic provider and orthopedics physical rehabilitation therapists because rheumatoid arthritis in some instances causes ligaments, which hold our bones together, to become lax, thus causing more mobility in a joint instead of less mobility. This need for cooperation makes Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab a particularly good choice because we have both chiropractic providers and orthopedics physical rehabilitation therapists who are used to working together on patient care—a fact well known to orthopedic physicians in Anchorage. It is imperative that orthopedic physicians identify areas of laxity prior to initiating any physical medicine program.
There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis, and osteoarthritis is overwhelmingly the most prevalent. It is a degenerative disease, which typically affects people over the age of 50, unless there is a history of an injury to the area involved.
Osteoarthritis generally begins to occur in the spine when subluxations, disc bulges/herniation, annular tears, disc degeneration, instability, scoliosis, spondylosis, sprains and strains and whiplash are left untreated.