This is a systemic autoimmune disorder of the connective tissue that is characterized by inflammation within synovial membranes, tendon sheaths and articular cartilage. In the majority of RA patients, usually the smaller peripheral joints are affected. Although most cases of RA are in the small joints, all connective tissue can be affected by this disorder. Inflammation is present in the affected joints and over time this disorder begins to erode the cartilage resulting in permanent damage to the joint.
Unfortunately, the eitology of this disorder is unknown. There has been evidence to support the idea that there is a genetic predisposition with viral and bacterial triggers. This disorder is mainly common among women as compared to men; they are three times more likely to be affected than men. Studies show that there are approximately 1.5 million women affected and about 600,000 men affect by RA. This disorder varies at how it affects each patient, it can come on very quickly or it can be a chronic issue that develops over time. A person could get this disorder at any time, but the majority of RA patients are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50. Some of the signs of RA are tenderness of small joints, bilateral involvement, and low grade fever.
Just like any other disease, the earlier it is caught the better the prognosis will be. There are many different ways you could try to help manage this but some of the most common ways include things such as massage, hot packs or hydrotherapy. Management exercises can change once this disorder is in either the Chronic or Remission stages. Once in this stage, the treatment shifts to focus on endurance, strength, and capacity. Stretching would be a good way to help keep a normal range of motion in those affected joints during this time although therapists must be aware that aggressive stretching could completely contraindicate this. Gentle or light conditioning, usually on a stationary bike, would be good to help with a patient's endurance as well.