“I have been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for many years and constant swelling in more of my joints. I have had one of my hips and both knees replaced and continued to take medication with no avail. One day my friend told me about Jung Shim and after a few treatments, I’m free of pain.” Florence, London
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of disease known as an autoimmune condition. This means that your body’s immune system has become too active, and mistakenly attacks your body. When you have RA, your immune system attacks the lining of your joints (the synovial lining). This causes inflammation, which leads to symptoms such as pain and stiffness. It tends to affect the small joints of the hands and feet first – often the knuckle joints in the fingers, although many joints can be inflamed. RA doesn’t just affect joints. RA can affect a person’s whole system, including organs such as the lungs, heart and eyes.
Who does it affect?
About 1% of the population in the UK has RA which is around 400,000 people. It affects roughly two to three times as many women as men. The most common age for people to develop RA is between 40 and 60, or a bit older for men. But people can get it at any age, even from the age of 14 when it’s ‘early onset’ RA. There are other forms of inflammatory arthritis, but RA is the most common.
If RA is not treated or is inadequately treated, it can cause irreversible damage to joints and lead to disability, however today the management of RA is very good, and although there is no cure, most people diagnosed today can expect to lead pretty full and active lives once the disease is under control.
What causes RA?
We know what causes inflammation in RA and how to treat it effectively.
But we don’t yet know exactly what causes RA itself. We understand that there are two elements involved: genetics and environmental factors.
Genetics are involved even if you don’t have anyone in your family with RA. But it’s not all about genes, genes indicate increased risk/susceptibility but not everyone with these genes develops RA as we can see from studies of identical twins. If one identical twin has RA, the other has only a one in six chance of developing the disease, even though they have the same genes.
An environmental trigger can be a virus, infection, trauma of some kind, or having a very stressful episode in your life such as bereavement, divorce or childbirth. There are many theories about triggers but nothing’s been conclusively identified.
We know that smoking makes RA more likely.
There’s a huge amount of research being done around the world to find the cause of RA, and many doctors think this will ultimately lead to a cure.
What are the symptoms?
The important signs and symptoms to be aware of are:
Pain, swelling and possibly redness around your joints. Hands and feet are often affected first, though RA can start in any joint
Stiffness in your joints when you get up in the morning or after sitting for a while, which lasts for more than 30 minutes and has no other obvious cause
Fatigue that’s more than just normal tiredness
If you have any of these symptoms, go and see your GP. The sooner RA is diagnosed and treated, the better the long-term outcomes are likely to be.
What is the treatment?
Taking medication is necessary in RA as this is the only way you are likely to be able to reduce inflammation and get your disease under control. Because of the types of medication involved your treatment will need to be regularly monitored and this will include blood tests. These will allow your doctor to monitor how active your RA is and how it’s responding to treatment and also look out for early warnings of any possible side effects of your drug treatment: to make sure your treatment is not dampening down your immune system too much.
Looking after yourself
The importance of self-management in RA cannot be underestimated. There is much you can do to help yourself.
Keep at a healthy weight. If you’re overweight it puts an undue stress on your weight-bearing joints, so losing weight is really important.
Try to reduce your cholesterol. People with RA can have an increased risk of heart disease and strokes in later life. So it’s all the more important to follow a good, balanced diet and one that reduces your cholesterol level.
Try to stop smoking. Evidence strongly suggests that smoking may increase the risk of developing RA. Smoking may also affect the severity of rheumatoid arthritis once it does develop.
Physical activity is vital to help keep your joints moving, and there’s good evidence that exercise also helps to relieve pain. (The only time you shouldn’t exercise is when a joint is very inflamed, swollen and painful)
Learn to pace yourself, because tiredness or fatigue is so common in RA. Keep to a balanced programme of activity to help you cope with and control your RA.
Support from Jung Shim
Jung Shim can help you with managing your energy levels and energy blockages which, if left untreated, can often lead to illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Come for an energy assessment where our qualified Practitioners will look at your energy levels and compile an energy plan for you which may include a combination of treatments, energy classes and healthy recipes to leave you feeling in control of your own ‘human’ energy levels.
Our energy treatments are very helpful because they unblock energy blockages, calm the body and help to reduce inflammation.