Treating rheumatoid arthritis: Reduce pain, replace parts

Rheumatoid arthritis treatments are for inflammation and pain reduction. When those treatments are insufficient, joint replacement is considered. Photo: Ed Yourdon

CHICAGO, September 5, 2012 - Most of us realize that arthritis causes stiff, painful joints. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis cause these symptoms for different reasons. Osteoarthritis refers to the wearing away of joint cartilage that cushioned the meeting of two bones.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membrane, responsible for a joint’s protection and lubrication, becomes inflamed, resulting in swelling and discomfort.  


Cortisone can be injected into specific areas of the body, reducing inflammation, and pain. The shots are typically given in one of our many joints such as the spine, wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle, knee, and hip. Sometimes joints in the feet or hands are injected. 

Several non-arthritic conditions are helped by cortisone injections. Examples are carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, rotator cuff injury, and lupus. Many doctors provide this treatment at their office, using a local anesthetic. One drawback to cortisone is that a patient’s number of injections per year are limited owing to possible cortisone side effects. 

Hip Arthroplasty 

Hip replacement surgery, or arthroplasty, involves replacing an injured or diseased hip with a prosthesis (artificial joint). The prosthesis is compatible with the human body despite having ceramic, metal, or plastic components. The expectation is that the artificial joint will alleviate stiffness and pain, giving patients increased mobility. 

Arthroplasty is usually recommended when other treatments are not effective. These treatments include physical therapy, pain medications, exercise, or the use of a mobility aid such as a cane.

Surgery is considered when people cannot sleep because of the pain, have difficulty getting up from a seated position, problems navigating stairs, increased pain when walking, or continuous intense pain when on pain medications.  

Knee Arthroplasty 

Knee arthroplasty, or knee replacement surgery, serves the same purpose as does hip arthroplasty. The replacements are made of high-grade plastics, polymers, and metal alloys. The artificial knee design used depends on a patient’s general health, weight, age, and usual activity level. 

Most people undergo knee replacement surgery due to damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. If losing weight, physical therapy, braces, mobility aids, and medications do not relieve the pain crimping a patient’s mobility, surgery is an option. 

Alternative Remedies and Nutrition 

Tai chi and yoga practice involve slow, measured movements that improve people’s range of motion and joint flexibility. Taking a glucosamine supplement is reported to relieve arthritis pain although research evidence supporting this varies. Some studies reveal that glucosamine relieves pain as well as placebos. People who are helped by glucosamine likely don’t care; they just enjoy the relief. 

Acupuncture may reduce joint pain in those not squeamish about being stuck with needles. Other arthritis sufferers never leave the house without their TENS unit. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation uses mild pulses of electricity to block pain signals being sent from diseased joints to the brain. 

Symptoms of arthritis can also be managed by making dietary changes that may reduce joint inflammation. For example, cooking with olive oil is recommended, as is eating almonds, walnuts, blueberries, and pineapple.  

Learn more about foods that reduce painful joint inflammation at



Mayo Clinic,

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Jacqueline Marshall

Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help For Depression, and freelances primarily in the areas of psychology and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.

Jacqueline has experience helping those diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness, and in providing general therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Prior to counseling, she worked in graphic design and music education.

When not writing or counseling, Jacqueline enjoys reading literature and math-less books about quantum physics. She is a published poet, and has studied animal communication and energy healing.  


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