Let’s start with what is “RA” or Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In a healthy person, the immune system will fight “attackers” (a virus or bacteria). With RA, the immune system malfunctions and attacks the body tissue itself and releases inflammatory chemicals to combat the “attackers,” in this case, the joint lining, which is called the synovium.. The synovium plays a key role within the joint. This lining of the joint allows for smooth movement to occur. When the synovium is inflamed; it thickens and can result in symptoms of pain, tenderness, redness and swelling of the joint area. Movement can become very painful and difficult.
RA is more prevalent in women – but it is not known why. It is not exactly genetic, but it is more common to develop it if someone in your family is diagnosed as well. RA tends to be more commonly found in the smaller joints such as the fingers and toes and tends to be on both sides (bilateral).
It is diagnosed through a thorough medical history, physical exam and laboratory work. There are specialists in this field – known as a Rheumatologist. Medical management is variable depending on each individual and their medical history and other considerations.
How Can PT Help?
Physical Therapists’ are Movement Specialists and we can work with you to determine your level of functional impairment and limitation. We tailor an individualized treatment plan – focusing on YOUR goals! Your therapy program may include strengthening and stretching exercises, cardiovascular fitness, pain management, balance exercises and education to promote long-term management. Often times, PT is recommended when someone is diagnosed with RA but can also be very helpful when there is a flare up of symptoms or progression of any kind.
For more information on RA and other types of arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation is a great resource: https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/rheumatoid-arthritis