Rheumatism is typically used to describe a general condition in which a person experiences soreness and stiffness of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, or joints. The condition can affect almost anyone of any age, and most commonly occurs in the knees, fingers, and joints. While no cure exists for rheumatism, a person can still live a normal life with the condition. Treatment for rheumatism often entails medications and changing certain behaviors, and in extreme cases, surgery may be the only option. Benefits of treatment for rheumatism include slowing down the illness and diminishing inflammation.
A common treatment for rheumatism is non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine. Medications of this type include ibuprofen and aspirin, and may be purchased over the counter. Other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine, such as meloxicam, etodolac, and sulindac, are available with a prescription. Typically, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine may be effective within a matter of hours to lower inflammation, but does not prevent joints from deteriorating. If taken over an extended amount of time, this medicine may erode the lining of the stomach and cause ulcers.
Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs are one of the most common treatments for rheumatism. This type of medicine aids in fighting the progression of the condition and are more effective than non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine. Methotrexate is most commonly prescribed disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug, but may cause certain side effects such as ulcers in the mouth and balding.
Another treatment for rheumatism, particularly during the early stages of the condition, is steroids. A steroid is a strong anti-inflammatory medicine that works quickly to diminish inflammation. Commonly prescribed steroids include prednisone and methylprenisolone. Steroids may come in a pill or may be injected right into the affected area for instant relief. Potential side effects of steroids include accelerated osteoporosis and weight gain.
A change in lifestyle may also be an effective treatment for rheumatism. Being overweight or obese taxes the musculoskeletal system, so reaching and maintaining an ideal body weight is helpful. Engaging in a variety of physical activities, especially swimming, is also effective in keeping the joints healthy. Conversely, sometimes rest may also be an effective treatment for rheumatism as overexertion may cause more severe inflammation of the joints.
Other effective methods for reducing stress on the joints and muscle tension include acupuncture and massages. Also, meeting with a physical and occupational therapist is often effective early on in treatment. Sometimes, splints, canes and walkers may aid in decreasing stress on affected joints.
When rheumatism is so severe and no other methods are effective, surgery may be necessary improve mobility and reduce pain. Typically, surgery involves replacing the disturbed joint. Hip and knee replacements are common forms of surgery.