Arthritis symptoms: Four non-joint symptoms that may signal the inflammatory condition

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There are more than 100 types of arthritis but rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common in the UK. “In rheumatoid arthritis the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling,” explains the NHS. However, joint complaints are not the only symptoms associated with the inflammatory form of arthritis.

According to health body NICE, there are a number of “non-specific” symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

These include:

  • Malaise
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss.

Rheumatoid nodules are a less obvious symptom associated with rheumatoid arthritis too.

“Rheumatoid nodules are firm lumps that appear under the skin in up to 20 percent of patients with RA [rheumatoid arthritis],” explains the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS).

According to the NRAS, they usually occur in overexposed joints that are subject to trauma, such as the finger joints and elbows.

How to respond

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have any of the symptoms so they can try to determine the cause.

“A GP will do a physical examination, checking your joints for any swelling and to assess how easily they move,” explains the health body.

It continues: “It’s important to tell the GP about all your symptoms, not just ones you think are important, as this will help them make the correct diagnosis.”

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Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but you can make changes to your lifestyle that can make the condition manageable.

Exercise may seem counterintuitive if you are suffering from joint complaints, but it can bring benefits for managing arthritis.

As the NHS explains, “exercising regularly can help relieve stress, help keep your joints mobile, and strengthen the muscles supporting your joints.

“Exercise can also help you lose weight if you’re overweight, which can put extra strain on your joints”.

The best exercises

Range-of-motion exercises are often recommended for people living with arthritis.

The Mayo Clinic explains: “These exercises relieve stiffness and increase your ability to move your joints through their full range of motion.”

According to the health body, these exercises might include movements such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward.

“In most cases, these exercises can be done daily.”

According to health body Versus Arthritis (VA), it’s important to start off slowly and gradually build up, as if you start too fast you might find the activity painful and be put off.

To build up your activity, try to gradually increase the following:

  • Frequency – how often you do it
  • Duration – the length of time you spend exercising
  • Intensity – how hard you try.

As VA points out, you don’t always need to see a healthcare professional to get started with exercise, as long as you take things slowly and listen to your body.

“If you have any concerns or worries, a healthcare professional, personal trainer or fitness instructor may be able to help.”

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