The Arthritis Foundation estimates that rheumatoid arthritis affects around 1.5 million Americans. Numerous patients with the autoimmune disease suffer from flare-ups and persistent discomfort. Nick Turkas, senior director for patient education at the Arthritis Foundation, states that speaking out in the doctor’s office and making lifestyle changes will help reduce some of the pain and discomfort.
“I believe it’s normal for persons with arthritis not to complain,” Turkas stated. He stresses the significance of addressing it with your physician.
“If you do not discuss your knee pain, hip pain, finger pain, or whatever it is with your doctor, you are missing out on an opportunity to enhance your health, and we know that people wait, and they wait too long.”
Turkas emphasized that joint pain caused by untreated rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to the development of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Untreated or inadequately treated, RA can necessitate surgery.
Physical therapy and mobility programs can aid in the reduction of pain. The Arthritis Foundation offers its “Vim” software to assist users in increasing their standing endurance from 10 minutes to an hour or more. Small beginnings can yield large benefits.
“If you want to exercise, start in a chair. There are things that you can do that way. You can start with, you know, gentle yoga or gentle tai chi or things that you can do that are modified to make it accessible in the beginning, and as you advance, you can open yourself up to a lot more opportunities,” said Turkas.
According to Turkas, chronic pain can also be the first domino in the cycle of stress and depression.
In a recent patient-reported survey conducted by the Arthritis Foundation, it was found that those with a regular connection or conversation partner were twice as likely to report a higher level of physical function than those who reported feeling alone.
Online communities can help individuals with rheumatoid arthritis connect with one another, particularly subset-specific ones, such as those for young adults with RA or freshly diagnosed patients, as well as those for Black or Asian patients.
No matter where a RA patient begins with lifestyle pain management, according to Turkas, it is crucial not to start too quickly or beyond one’s competence level.
“If the goal looks too ‘pie in the sky’ or too challenging, that’s the worst thing that can happen to someone with a chronic illness,” Turkas added. Take [modest] efforts to better manage your health. “They feel like, well, I can’t do anything. I’m a failure.”