Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune disease, meaning the body’s immune system targets the lining of the joint and can cause irritation, inflammation, and damage. It is possible, with the right diagnosis and treatment, that many sufferers of Rheumatoid Arthritis can go on to live active, productive, and pain-free lives. The acute stages of the disease, and management of symptoms, is the first step in achieving this goal.
Risk Factors and Early Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis manifests in a variety of symptoms and those who suffer can experience some or all of the following:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Pain, stiffness, and tenderness in the joint
- Weight loss
- Lack of balance (unsteadiness)
- Decreased range of motion
Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of getting Rheumatoid Arthritis:
- Age. Early onset Rheumatoid Arthritis, whilst possible, is less likely with a higher onset rate with individuals in their sixties.
- Gender. Cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis are typically three times more likely to occur in women than in men
- Smoking or other ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle choices
- Obesity. Studies show that weight plays a pivotal role in the risk established in developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Genetics. Individuals who have a gene called HLA class II genotypes are not only more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis, but the symptoms can also become a lot worse
When to get checked by a medical professional
Persistent discomfort and swelling are tell-tale signs that it is time to head to the doctor. Although a medical professional cannot cure you of Rheumatoid Arthritis, they can explain how certain environmental factors, such as infection or smoking, may have triggered the disease. At its core, Rheumatoid Arthritis’ formation relies on certain genetic components that are oftentimes out of the persons control, a visit to see a medical professional will allow for clarity to begin the treatment process to make sure that the joints do not degenerate or cause further pain.
Elbow Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
The elbow is a hinged joint made up of three core bones, the humerus, ulna, and radius, supported by tough bands of connective tissue called ligaments. When the immune system starts to attack this healthy tissue, and the beginning of the Rheumatoid Arthritis process occurs, these bones can begin to rub together and cause instances of degradation – resulting in additional pressure on surrounding nerves which can cause a tingling sensation in the fingers and, in most cases, intense pain, swelling, and deformity of the elbow joint.
Some sufferers of Rheumatoid Arthritis will also experience a condition called rheumatoid nodules where lumps form under the skin during a flare up of the area. The cause of the nodules is unknown, but with treatment, they are slowly prompted to lessen their size.
Doctors will usually begin by performing a multitude of tests to determine whether the individual has Rheumatoid Arthritis and at what stage the disease is at. This could include X-rays, MRI’s, ultrasounds, or blood tests (to check for autoantibodies which could aid in combating the diagnosis).
Treating and Managing Elbow Arthritis
When a diagnosis is received, it's critical to begin some form of treatment so that the Rheumatoid Arthritis does not progress and become worse. This could take the form of a combination of any of the following:
- Medication. Short-term relief methods such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can block inflammation and reduce swelling, with more abrasive methods of corticosteroids and oral steroids used to effectively reduce more severe pain. Overuse of medication may result in tolerance where the effectiveness is reduced as your body becomes used to it. Bauerfeind products reduce the reliance on drugs and is a natural and non-invasive approach to recovery.
- Physical and Occupational Therapy. Strengthening the surrounding muscles of the elbow can aid with pain management of the joint. Consult a GP or Physiotherapist to decide what course of treatment and therapy is appropriate for your circumstances.
- Surgery. In more severe cases, where persistent inflammation causes permanent damage to the elbow joint, surgery may be needed. This may include simply removing fragments of loose bone or inflamed tissue – or even a complete joint replacement if necessary. We always recommend getting a few opinions from different clinicians to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision. Different surgeons may have significantly different points of view based on a patient's indications.
- Other remedies such as resting the elbow, avoiding overuse of the joint, and applying cold or heat therapy for swelling, are other effective strategies to combat pain.
Bauerfeind Braces for Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Elbow
EpiTrain Elbow Brace
Ideal for tendonitis, and arthritis, the EpiTrain Elbow Brace is perfect for the management of both mild and severe pain. The aim of the brace is to stabilise the surrounding muscles and increase blood flow to heal the damaged area, whilst also massaging the elbow to relieve pain and inflammation.
EpiTrain Forearm Strap
If more support is needed from the EpiTrain Elbow Brace, the addition of the EpiTrain Forearm Strap may be needed. When the muscles are tensed, the strap reinforces the relieving pressure on the tendon insertions and the pain-relieving effects of the brace, namely aiding injuries that are more severe.
For assistance selecting the right product for your needs, book a video consultation with a Bauerfeind expert: Book Video Call, or call us on 1300 668 466.
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Bauerfeind products are developed at our innovation and manufacturing facility in Zeulenroda, Germany. Based on years of scientific research, our award-winning braces and support garments are highly recommended by medical professionals and athletes worldwide.