Treatments Besides DMARDs for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis almost always begins with
disease-modifying medicine, but it doesn't stop there. Treatment can include
pain relief, surgery, and different forms of therapy.
Dealing with pain
Early and rapid administration of disease-modifying antirheumatic
medicines (DMARDs), such as those that alter
immune system function, can have beneficial long-term
effects on the course of rheumatoid arthritis. But in a crisis of
rheumatoid arthritis pain, acute management of the immediate problem will
improve your comfort while the disease-modifying medicines are starting to
work. Rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help increase
comfort during a crisis. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen are
available over the counter and work to suppress the inflammatory response that
causes joint pain and swelling. Your doctor may also sometimes
recommend corticosteroids, either orally or by injection into the muscle or
joint, to help treat a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis.
Surgical intervention has a big role in the treatment of
rheumatoid arthritis. The most common role of surgery is to correct the
deformities caused by joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis. But joint
replacement can also be done. Typical areas operated on for rheumatoid
The neck, to stabilize the portion of the upper
spine where it meets the base of the skull.
Hands and wrists, to
correct deformities and allow improved fine-motor functioning.
and knees, usually to replace a joint.
Ankles and toes,
where joint destruction and deformity may occur and diminish your ability to
Seek the care of orthopedic or plastic surgeons or podiatrists who
have a particular interest or experience in the surgical treatment of
inflammatory arthritis, as outcome can be particularly dependent on the
experience of the surgeon.
Physical and occupational therapy
Both physical and occupational therapy may help maintain function in
Occupational therapists may be especially helpful in
teaching people with significant loss of mobility how to use orthotic devices
to open jars, use utensils, and do other activities of daily living.
Physical therapists can help you keep your strength and range of motion of the joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis and
instruct you in an appropriate
Primary Medical Reviewer
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.