Many patients come to Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine for relief of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by wear and tear on the joints. It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own healthy tissues, resulting in pain and inflammation of the joints.
While osteoarthritis tends to occur in older individuals or in younger people who have suffered traumatic joint injuries, RA most often occurs in middle age and has many more systemic symptoms than osteoarthritis. Though rheumatoid arthritis is incurable, our doctors have years of experience successfully treating its symptoms without surgery.
Why Our Physiatrists Provide Exceptional Care for Rheumatoid Arthritis
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, all of our doctors are physiatrists, specialists in pain management and restoration of function. We are a holistic practice, so our focus is on you as a whole person, not just a patient with RA.
We are geared toward making you feel more comfortable, more energetic, and more able to participate fully in your normal routine. Our approach to health is noninvasive and incorporates complementary as well as traditional therapies.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Because RA is an inflammatory disease, it may affect other parts of the body besides the joints. Typically, however, joint swelling is the most obvious sign of trouble. Common symptoms of RA are:
- Joints that are swollen, tender, and warm to the touch.
- Joint stiffness, usually worse in the mornings and after periods of inactivity
- Fatigue, fever and loss of appetite
In most cases, the first joints affected are the small joints of the toes or fingers. As the disease progresses, it may gradually affect larger joints. Wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, hips, and shoulders may become painful and inflamed, eventually resulting in joint deformity or bone erosion. In most cases, symptoms appear in joints symmetrically on both sides of the body.
In addition to joint symptoms, about 40 percent of patients with RA also suffer problems that affect organs, eyes, glands, skin or nerve tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis is also known to have periods of increased disease activity known as flare-ups and periods of relative remission.
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we stand ready to help you with treatments tailored to meet your particular needs — no matter what your symptoms or stage of progression.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
Medical research has not determined a specific cause of the disease, but some evidence points to a genetic component. The present view is that your genes give you a tendency to develop the condition and that environmental factors (e.g. certain infections) may act as triggers.
Risk factors for Developing RA
Statistically, you are more at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis if:
- You are female
- You are between the ages of 30 and 50
- You have a family history of the disease.
- You are a smoker
- You are overweight or obese
Of course, if you are presently suffering from RA, the underlying cause and risk factors are probably of little importance to you. You are likely much more concerned with how to get relief and improve your quality of life. This puts you on the same page as the doctors at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine. We all have the same goal — to make you happier and healthier in the immediate future.
Diagnosing RA Can Be Complicated
Fortunately, our physicians are well-respected diagnosticians because diagnosing RA can be tricky. Its symptoms are similar to those of several other diseases and this is no single test that definitively proves you have the condition. Nonetheless, we are experienced at diagnosing and treating patients with rheumatoid arthritis and know precisely what combination of factors to look for as we:
- Perform a physical examination to check your reflexes and muscle strength as well as examine your joints for swelling, redness, and warmth
- Administer blood tests, some of which will reveal active inflammatory processes and others that will show the rheumatoid factor and certain antibodies found in RA patients
- Administer Imaging tests, such as X-rays to watch the progression of your RA, and ultrasound and MRI scans tol help us gauge its severity.
Of course, you may arrive at our office already diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and already under treatment with a rheumatologist. You may already be taking medications prescribed for RA, such as: NSAIDS, steroids, biologic agents, and categories of drugs known as DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs). You may even have already had surgery to repair a damaged joint.
Sadly, the more invasive the substance or procedure, the more serious its side effects or complications are likely to be. RA medications are known to make patients more prone to infections and some types of cancer, and may negatively impact heart or lung function. In some cases, our patients have stopped taking one or another of these drugs because of uncomfortable or dangerous side effects.
Our Treatments for RA Are Considerably Less Risky
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we are always looking for the least invasive treatment for your problem. We have found that, depending on the details of your particular case of RA, our therapies, especially when used in combination, can be helpful in reducing pain, decreasing inflammation, and promoting healing in damaged tissues.
RA patients frequently respond well to:
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to promote healing
- Customized physical therapy, including electrical stimulation
- Ultrasound-guided injections of a corticosteroid and analgesics to relieve pain and inflammation
- PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) therapy which, in addition to treating pain and inflammation, increases blood flow to your cells to promote more rapid healing
We are well aware that, as an RA patient, you must be cautious about overdoing physical exercise and must learn to move in ways that don’t worsen your condition. Taking this into account, we tailor the length and nature of the physical therapy we offer you, and teach you to rethink some of the ways you move in order to avoid strain and fatigue.
We also recommend, and in some cases supply, assistive devices that are made especially for people with rheumatoid arthritis.