7 Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

7 Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that affects 1.5 million people in the United States. While we at Arthritis Wonder usually discuss the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis, we wanted to let you know about rheumatoid arthritis as well so that you will know the differences between the two conditions. This article will discuss the signs and common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

  1. Joint Pain
  2. Joint Inflammation
  3. Joint Stiffness
  4. Rheumatoid Nodules
  5. Fatigue
  6. Weakness
  7. Joint Deformity

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is called an autoimmune disorder. This means that your immune system, which usually attacks foreign organisms in your body, starts attacking the body’s own structures instead. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of your joints, called synovium. The cells responsible for the attack form a layer of fibrous abnormal tissue. This tissue releases abnormal substances into the joint, causing destruction of bone, cartilage, and ligaments. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis result from this ongoing cycle of attack and the formation of abnormal tissue.

Rheumatoid arthritis can appear in all of the joints of the body, but it usually shows up in the smaller joints first. A person with rheumatoid arthritis may have pain and swelling in the knuckles of the hands or the ankles early in the course of the disease. As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, it affects more joints of the body, including the wrists, elbows, shoulders, feet, knees, hips, neck and jaw.

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Different from Osteoarthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis do have some symptoms in common, including joint pain and swollen joints. However, these conditions have different causes. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune response, as described above, while osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing down of the cartilage inside the joint. Because the two conditions have different causes,

they have some noticeable differences.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects the whole body, while osteoarthritis affects specific joints. Since rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition, meaning that it affects your whole system, people who have rheumatoid arthritis usually have symptoms all over their bodies. Joint pain and swelling usually occur in the same joints on both sides of the body, rather than just one or two joints at a time. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis also experience weakness and fatigue that is felt all over the body, while someone with osteoarthritis might experience weakness in the muscles surrounding the affected joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis can actually make you sick and experience flu-like symptoms. During a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, a person may experience fever and loss of appetite in addition to the other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. People with osteoarthritis will only experience symptoms in the affected joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis requires specialized medications that treat the whole body. While osteoarthritis responds well to over the counter medications, such as topical treatments like Arthritis Wonder, rheumatoid arthritis is treated with prescription medications that must be taken regularly and long-term to be effective.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can appear quickly. The disease often begins between the ages of 35 and 45 and is more common in women. Osteoarthritis gradually appears over time, as joints wear down, and is usually diagnosed in people age 60 or over.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There are several signs and symptoms which can indicate a rheumatoid arthritis condition. Let’s take a look at these symptoms in more detail.

1. Joint Pain

Just like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis causes severe joint pain. Unlike osteoarthritis, however, this pain is likely to settle in many joints, rather than just one or two. Rheumatoid arthritis often causes pain the hands first, especially the knuckles, thumbs, and wrists. This pain can significantly limit a person’s ability to complete daily activities, including getting dressed, cleaning, driving, and so on. Joint pain and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis affect the joints symmetrically, so if one hand is painful, the other hand will be also.

2. Joint Inflammation

Rheumatoid arthritis also causes inflammation in the joints that results in swelling, heat, and reddening of the skin. This swelling can be quite noticeable, appearing very large, puffy and “squishy” to the touch. Pressing on this swelling with a finger will leave a dent. An inflamed joint will also feel warm or even hot to the touch and the skin may appear red while the joint is inflamed. If many joints in the body are inflamed at the same time, the person with rheumatoid arthritis may even develop a fever. This amount of inflammation makes it difficult to move the joints, as well as difficult to put on and wear tight-fitting clothing.

3. Joint Stiffness

As with other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis causes joint stiffness, especially in the morning or after long periods of inactivity. Joint stiffness can be particularly severe in the morning and many people with rheumatoid arthritis face morning stiffness find it difficult to get out of bed. Movement does relieve this kind of joint stiffness, but it can take a couple of hours to get joints moving in the morning. The same thing can happen if a person with rheumatoid arthritis has a sedentary job and sits at a desk all day. Standing and walking after long periods of sitting can be difficult because the knees and ankles have stiffened.

4. Rheumatoid Nodules

Rheumatoid nodules occur in about 25% of people who have rheumatoid arthritis. These are firm little bumps that form under the skin near the base of an affected joint. They are often seen on the backs of the hands and fingers, on the elbows and forearms, on the knees, and on the backs of the heels. Why rheumatoid nodules form is unknown. While they are not very pretty, they are most often harmless. Rheumatoid nodules can sometimes be painful, especially if the skin over a nodule becomes irritated or breaks down. In rare instances, rheumatoid nodules can form in the eyes, vocal cords, or lungs, causing more complicated problems.

5. Fatigue

A common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is fatigue. This type of fatigue isn’t the kind that means you need to go to bed at night. The inflammatory reaction that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis leaves a person feeling drained and exhausted. It also decreases the appetite. This kind of fatigue does not go away with a good night’s sleep but continues on for as long as active inflammation is present. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis experience this crippling kind of fatigue every day.

6. Muscle Weakness

After rheumatoid arthritis has been present in the body for a while, it takes a toll on a person’s muscle strength. This is partly due to the inflammation process itself, as the tendons and ligaments that connect the muscles to the bones often cross inflamed joints and become inflamed as well. Muscle weakness also results from inactivity, as a person with actively inflamed joints has difficulty participating in physical activity due to pain and stiffness. As joints become damaged, the muscles have even more difficulty moving in normal patterns, leading to additional weakness.

7. Joint Deformity

A person who has had rheumatoid arthritis for a long time may end up with joints that are so damaged they become deformed. The inflammation that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis gradually erodes bone and damages ligaments and cartilage, eventually destroying the joint. When this happens, the joint becomes unstable and can no longer hold up against the pulling forces of the remaining tendons and muscles, so the joints give way and become deformed. This happens most often in the finger joints. Bunions on the big toe are also common. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis often have finger deformities that call attention to their disease.

Ulnar drift is a deformity that happens when the ligaments pull the knuckle joints sideways, causing the fingers to “drift” toward the little finger side of the hand.

Swan neck deformity happens when the small joints of the fingers erode and the ligaments and tendons that extend the fingers pull those joints out of alignment, causing the fingers to curve on themselves until they resemble the neck of a swan.

Boutonniere deformity also occurs when the small joints of the fingers erode, and ligaments and tendons pull those joints out of alignment, in the opposite directions of the swan neck deformity.

What Are Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease and, just like many other autoimmune disorders, it cannot be cured. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis need to learn to live with their condition. Disease-modifying and rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can help make the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis less severe, allowing people the ability to move and participate in daily activities.

Most anti-rheumatic drugs act by suppressing the immune system, reducing its attacks on the joints and slowing the damage to the affected joints. While these suppressant medications have proven to be very effective in reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, they have a side effect of lowering the effectiveness of a person’s immune system overall, making them more susceptible to catching colds, viruses, and contagious diseases. People who have rheumatoid arthritis should take precautions to counteract this problem, such as getting an annual flu shot or vaccinations before traveling.

Anti-inflammatory medications that can help rheumatoid arthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These medications can cause irritation to the stomach lining, so care must also be taken when using NSAIDs for a long period of time.

Other treatments may be effective in relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and restoring daily function. Treatments such as heat or cold can improve circulation in the joints. Gentle range of motion exercises can improve joint movement. Water exercise can be especially effective as it reduces gravity and supports the inflamed joints, making movement easier. In severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis, physical and occupational therapies may be needed to address mobility and daily living skills. Adaptations to daily tasks and the person’s environment may also be necessary to compensate for any loss of function due to joint damage and deformity. These treatments can help improve the quality of life when living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Some people who have rheumatoid arthritis do use topical medications for pain relief, such as Arthritis Wonder. This topical treatment contains Wogonin, a chemical compound that acts on the pain receptors in the joints to block pain signals to the brain. Arthritis Wonder has been designed to be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Arthritis Wonder may work to relieve some pain for people with rheumatoid arthritis but be aware that Arthritis Wonder is most effective when used to treat osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, systemic condition that can be debilitating if not treated in its early stages. If you suspect that you have rheumatoid arthritis, consult your doctor as soon as possible. You may be referred to a rheumatologist who can help you start a treatment plan. The earlier rheumatoid arthritis is treated, the longer you will be able to deal with and live with this disease.

8 Pain-Relieving Hand Exercises for Arthritis

8 Pain-Relieving Hand Exercises for Arthritis

There are many forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and others which all cause joint pain. Arthritis pain in your hands is extremely uncomfortable and can prevent you from doing simple daily activities, like buttoning your shirt or opening the toothpaste cap. Hand exercises can help relieve arthritis pain and keep your fingers moving. This article will talk about why hand exercises for arthritis are beneficial. It will also give you several range-of-motion exercises that you can do at home. We have given these exercises fun names to help you remember them.

8 Hand Exercises for Arthritis

  • Palms Up, Palms Down
  • Wipe the Table
  • Yoga Hands
  • Bend the Wrist
  • Four Finger Salute
  • Fingertip Touch
  • Roll the Carpet
  • Swinging Door

How Hand Exercises Help Relieve Arthritis Pain

Regardless of what form of arthritis you have, the most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. If you have arthritis in your hands, you may experience this pain and stiffness daily. The loss of cartilage and/or inflammation of your joints make your hand and finger muscles, tendons, and ligaments stiff and painful. If you do nothing, this process will continue to become more severe until your muscles and tendons lose their flexibility. This will cause your joints to lose range of motion, limiting your hand function.

One way to combat the pain and stiffness that arthritis causes is to complete stretching exercises every day. These stretches, also called range-of-motion exercises, help to keep the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your hands at their normal length so that your wrists, hands, and finger joints will continue to move normally. Range-of-motion exercises also help to keep the fluid moving through your joints. This lubricates the surfaces of the joint structures and makes sure that everything moves without that rubbing or grinding feeling.

Certain exercises have the same effect on your tendons, preventing them from sticking or catching on other tendons. When completed daily, range-of-motion exercises help to control pain and stiffness and preserve hand movement.

General Guidelines for Completing Arthritis Hand Exercises

There are a few simple rules that you should follow when completing range-of-motion exercises for arthritis. Following these guidelines will prevent you from causing more problems as you exercise.

Let pain be your guide. The old saying “no pain, no gain” does not apply here. If an exercise hurts a little bit, that’s okay, but if it hurts a lot, you are overdoing it. Back off on how much you move your joint. If the exercise is very painful even when you move a little, then stop that exercise.

Don’t over-do it. You may feel a little sore after doing hand exercises for arthritis, especially after the first few times. This feeling should go away within 2 hours of completing exercises. If it doesn’t, you did too much. Try reducing the number of repetitions that you do, then gradually increasing those repetitions as you get used to exercising.

Complete exercises slowly and gently. Don’t push on your joints to get them to move farther. This can actually damage your joints and your tendons, especially if they are actively inflamed. Your movement will increase gradually, so have patience.

If exercises seem to cause more pain than pain relief, then you might need more help. Stop these stretches and contact your doctor. He or she may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help you with your hand function. It is better to play it safe and seek professional help if the pain is too extreme.

Pain-Relieving Hand Exercises for Arthritis

Try this hand exercise program for help relieving joint pain and stiffness in your wrists, hands, and fingers. Try to do these exercises every day to keep your hands moving.

1. Palms Up, Palms Down

This exercise will stretch the long muscles and tendons that attach to your wrists. Start with your elbows by your side. Bend your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle and your hands are positioned with your thumbs on top (like you are getting ready to shake hands with someone). From this position, turn your hands until both palms are facing up. Hold this position for a slow count of 5. Then turn your hands in the opposite direction until your palms are facing down. Again, hold for a slow count of 5. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times for help with wrist pain.

2. Wipe the Table

The goal of this exercise is to stretch the long and short tendons and ligaments that attach at the sides of your wrists. Sit at a table or desk, or stand at a waist-high countertop. Place your hands and forearms on the top of the table with your palms down. Without moving your forearms, bend your wrists toward your thumbs so that your hands slide toward each other. Hold for a slow count of 5. Then bend your wrists in the opposite direction so that your hands slide away from each other. Hold for a slow count of 5. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

3. Yoga Hands

This exercise helps to stretch the tendons and ligaments that bend your wrists and fingers. It also helps with carpal tunnel syndrome, relieving swelling,  pressure, and improving grip strength. With your elbows bent, place the palms of both hands together with the tips of your fingers just touching your chin. Keeping your palms together, gently slide your hands toward your chest until you feel a stretch in both wrists. Hold for a slow count of five. Slide your hands back to your chin. Repeat 5 to 10 times. If this is uncomfortable, here’s an alternate way to do this stretch: start with your elbows relaxed and your palms together in front of you, fingers pointing forward. Keeping your palms together, gently move your hands toward your stomach until you feel a stretch in both wrists. Hold for a slow count of 5, then move your hands away from your stomach.

4. Bend the Wrist

Use this exercise to stretch the tendons and ligaments that straighten your wrists and fingers. Start with one elbow bent and your palm facing down. Gently bend your wrist down until your fingers are pointing toward the floor and you feel a stretch on the back of your wrist. Place your other hand on the back of the first hand and hold it in position for a slow count of 5. If you do not feel a stretch on the back of your wrist you can gently push your hand down until you do. Be careful not to push too hard. After counting to 5, straighten your wrist. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each wrist.

5. Four Finger Salute

This exercise will stretch the tendons and ligaments in your thumb, improving mobility. Start with your elbows bent at your sides and your hands positioned with fingers straight and thumbs on top. Stretch both thumbs away from your hand until they are pointing toward the ceiling. Then move your thumbs in a circular motion across your palms until they are touching just below the little fingers. If you can’t move your thumbs this far, move them as far as you can. Once you touch, slowly reverse the motion until your thumbs point to the ceiling again. Perform this motion slowly to get the best stretch. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

6. Fingertip Touch

Your ability to pinch and manipulate small objects should improve when you do this exercise regularly. Start with your elbows bent at your sides and your hands positioned with fingers straight and thumbs on top. Slowly move your thumbs and index fingers until the tips touch, then move them back to starting position. Repeat 5 to 10 times with each finger.

7. Roll the Carpet

This exercise helps keep the tendons that move your fingers lubricated, preventing them from rubbing or sticking on other structures as they move. Your range of motion in the small joints of your fingers should also improve with this exercise. Start with your elbows bent at your sides and your hands positioned with fingers straight and thumbs on top. Starting with your fingertips, slowly bend the joints of your fingers and curl your fingers in toward your palm until they are fisted, or “rolled” like a carpet. Your thumbs should stay relaxed. Once you have curled your fingers into your palm, slowly reverse the motion to straighten your fingers, or “unroll” the carpet, until your fingers are in starting position. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

8. Swinging Door

Just like Roll the Carpet, this exercise keeps the tendons that move your fingers lubricated and moving smoothly. Start with your elbows bent at your sides and your hands positioned with fingers straight and thumbs on top. Slowly bend your knuckles as far as they will go, then bend the middle joints of your fingers until your fingertips touch your palm. Do not curl your fingers in, but “swing” them toward your palm like a swinging door. Your thumbs should stay relaxed. Once your fingertips touch your palm, reverse the motion until your fingers are straight. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Methods That May Help Relieve Arthritis Pain as you Exercise

Because of the way arthritis affects the body, you may benefit from additional pain-relief methods as you exercise. Your joints may flare-up or stiffen and you might be tempted to skip exercises on those days. However, skipping exercises can result in your joints becoming more painful. A better alternative is to use other pain relief methods in addition to exercise. Here are a few ideas:

Over the counter anti-inflammatory medication. Pain relief medication such as ibuprofen is designed to reduce inflammation in the body, relieving arthritis pain. If you have swollen joints, you may want to take some anti-inflammatory medication about a half hour before you exercise. Be sure to consult your doctor before taking any over the counter medication.

Heat or cold. If your joints are very stiff and sore, try applying a hot pack or soaking your hands in warm water before you exercise. You can even do hand exercises in warm water if it helps. If your joints are red, warm and swollen, apply a cold pack before exercising. This can help reduce the swelling and make the movement more comfortable.

Use a topical pain relief treatment like Arthritis Wonder. This medication contains Wogonin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compound that is FDA approved. Arthritis Wonder was developed by Dr. David Kooyman, a microbiologist who also has arthritis and has made the relief of arthritis symptoms his life’s work. Arthritis Wonder is available on this website.

Arthritis in your hands can be uncomfortable, painful, and can limit your activities. By completing range-of-motion exercises every day, you can control pain and stiffness, making movement easier and preserving your ability to complete daily activities. Follow these exercises and recommendations every day to relieve arthritis pain in your hands.