Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory disorder affecting many joints in the body, most commonly in the smaller joints such as the hands and feet. While both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis both affect joints of the body, they differ in the fact that rheumatoid arthritis is not a “wear and tear” type of condition. This type of arthritis causes a painful swelling affecting the lining of the joints. It can eventually lead to erosion of bone and eventually joint deformity.Women are generally 2-3x more commonly affected by rheumatoid arthritis, it usually starts to show up around the mid-30s to 40 years of age. Rheumatoid is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. The immune system is designed to protect the body from disease and infection. With an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks normal and healthy cells of the body. Autoimmune conditions tend to run in families.Symptoms of the condition may vary in severity and often come and go, which is typical of an autoimmune condition. Swelling and pain are common in the extremities, and may increase with flare ups of the condition. During periods of remission, symptoms may fade or even disappear completely. Since it is a systemic disorder, it can have an effect on other body systems including the eyes, mouth, skin, lungs, blood, and blood vessels.Rheumatoid arthritis is usually bilaterally symmetrical, meaning when it is present in the hands, for example, then both are usually affected to the same degree. In the hands, we typically see enlarged joints of the knuckles and middle of the fingers. In advanced cases, the fingers may become deformed and deviate away from the thumbs. Swelling of the hands, feet, and elbows are also common with this condition.Diagnostic imaging can show many characteristics of this condition in different areas of the body. Bony erosion or a localized osteoporosis are some common findings on X-ray views of the condition. Lab testing is the best way to confirm the condition.Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis usually includes rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and some sort of an exercise or therapy program such as what may be offered in a physical therapy or chiropractic office. The goal is to detect and treat the condition early on to reduce or stop the inflammatory process as quickly as possible. Prevention of joint and organ damage, as well as improvement in physical function is important to reduce long-term complications. Consultation with a rheumatologist is also important in early stages to control progression of the condition.Degenerative or osteoarthritis is more commonly seen in the chiropractic office, however, it is important to remember that both types of arthritis are manageable with proper care. At Optimal Chiropractic, Drs. Chris and Emily treat patients with a wide range of conditions. Our focus is not only on treatment of a disease or condition, but prevention and education for all those who seek to improve their overall health.If you or someone you know is suffering with pain or muscle weakness caused by arthritis, we would love to help. Give our office a call at (208) 777-4305, we are located across from the Kootenai Urgent Care Clinic in Post Falls, Idaho.