The pain, inflammation and deformity that usually accompany the autoimmune condition rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make your life a misery. The disease can start at just about any age, from when you are in your teens right through to your seventies. A majority of patients find that they are in their twenties or thirties when their first symptoms appear. Your symptoms might be confined to the joints of your fingers and perhaps toes, or might also affect your knee, hip and spinal joints. Because RA is a systemic condition, it might also affect body areas other than your joints, for example, your internal organs or other body systems. Your heart, lungs, kidneys, gut, nervous system and mental-emotional state could be negatively affected. At Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford, we are used to seeing patients struggling with autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis. Our winning combination of acupuncture care, Chinese herbs and scientifically-grounded dietary and lifestyle advice could be just the solution if you are looking for symptomatic relief. At Advance Clinic we’ll work hard to help relieve your RA symptoms and enable you to live life to the full.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis? What is Autoimmunity?
RA is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder which many people associate with joint pain, stiffness and swelling. However, RA can affect many areas of the body outside of the joints (see below).
RA is classed as an autoimmune disease. That means that it is a disease characterised by immune system dysfunction.
Ordinarily our immune system is there to protect us against invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. It also helps destroy old and worn out cells and clear the resulting debris. In autoimmunity, however, the immune system becomes disordered and starts to attack the very body cells, tissues and organs that it is supposed to protect.
The reasons why the immune system becomes dysfunctional in this way are poorly understood. However, with autoimmunity generally, 25% of the risk is thought to be genetic, while 75% of the risk appears to be due to environmental factors, such as poor diet, gut dysfunction, infections and exposure to environmental toxins etc.
In RA, primary targets of the immune system include the small joints of the hands, feet, wrists and sometimes spine. Other, larger joints, like the hip and knee may also be attacked, as may other areas of the body, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels. It’s the potentially wide-ranging effects of RA that make it a systemic disorder.
Conventional medical treatment of the condition is centred on powerful drugs. These include DMARDs (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) such as azathioprine, sulfasalazine and methotrexate, as well as newer biologic DMARDs such as etanercept. Many of these medications can potentially cause significant side effects.
A Systemic, Whole-Body Disorder: The Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The main signs and symptoms of RA are as follows:
- Pain, stiffness, swelling and possibly progressive deformity of the small joints of the hands, feet and wrists.
- Pain, stiffness, swelling and possibly progressive deformity of larger joints, such as the hips and knees.
- Spinal pain.
Other common and less common symptoms that can occur in RA include the following:
- Skin and subcutaneous manifestations – subcutaneous nodules, bleeding into the skin, palmar erythema and skin ulceration.
- Cardiovascular abnormalities – increased risk of heart attacks, heart valve and heart conduction defects, pericardial effusion and vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) etc.
- Lung abnormalities – fibrosis, nodules and bronchiolitis.
- Kidney and gut abnormalities – usually secondary to the powerful conventional medications used in the treatment of RA.
- Nervous system abnormalities – nerve entrapment is common, including possible compression of the spinal cord in the neck and muscle weakness and shrinkage.
- Eye involvement – keratoconjunctivitis sicca is commonly found. This may be the initial manifestation of the development of Sjogren’s syndrome, another autoimmune disease.
Some of the above heart, lung, skin and eye manifestations are quite commonly found in RA. You can therefore see that RA is truly a systemic disease. In other words, your symptoms can relate to many different organs and tissues of the body.
Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford: How We Can Help
Rheumatoid arthritis, like other autoimmune diseases, is at heart an inflammatory disease. As stated above, the inflammation involved can potentially affect many areas of the body, not just the joints of the hands and feet.
Your Hertford Chiropractor is a highly-trained specialist in spinal and other musculoskeletal conditions and is qualified to examine your spinal and other joints. Once you have undergone examination at the clinic, the care we offer is designed to reduce the inflammation which is central to RA and other autoimmune conditions.
It’s important to realise that neither we nor anyone else can cure RA, or any other autoimmune disorder. However, there’s increasing evidence that certain treatment strategies may be able to reduce the inflammation found in these conditions. By reducing inflammation, we can often help to ease your symptoms, including pain and swelling.
Sometimes significant relief from symptoms can be obtained, even to the point where your medication dosage may be reduced or even removed. You should of course always first consult your GP or medical specialist if you would like to try and reduce the dosage of your medications.
Advance Clinic uses the following treatment strategies to help relieve inflammation and your symptoms:
- Acupuncture therapy
- Chinese herbs
- Dietary, nutritional and other detailed lifestyle advice
These strategies, especially when combined, can be highly effective in reducing the inflammation found in autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis.
As stated earlier, it’s currently believed that only 25% of the risk of developing autoimmunity is due to genetic or inherited factors. The other 75% of risk is thought due to various environmental factors, such as nutrient-poor diets, chronic emotional stress, poor sleep, ongoing gut and other infections, as well as exposure to environmental toxins.
Even where you have an autoimmune diagnosis, scientific research evidence and our patient’s experience suggests that making positive changes in the areas of diet, nutrition, stress, sleep and exercise etc, can have a profound effect on reducing the symptoms of your condition.
At Advance Clinic, we offer quality lifestyle advice and support to help you make improvements to your health, including reduction of pain and discomfort. We’ll support the lifestyle changes you make with quality acupuncture care and/or Chinese herbs.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can potentially help reduce your pain, discomfort and other symptoms in the following ways:
- By reducing pain and inflammation – both are commonly found in autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis.
- By helping to balance immune system activity – more research is required in this area, but some current research suggests that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can boost immunity when it is weak and also moderate overactive immune responses, as in autoimmunity.
- By helping reduce the mental-emotional impact of RA, whether it be anxiety, depression, stress, brain fog, poor memory or difficulty processing thoughts.
There are numerous ways in which Advance Clinic can potentially help with the symptoms of your disorder. Contact us today and get your health back on track again!
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Call Advance Clinic Now:01992-535970