To work properly, your joints require muscles. Together, they are essential elements to support your movement. Rheumatoid arthritis or RA (a systematic arthritis related to the abnormality of immune system) can affect the muscles in the involved joints, causing muscle pain. The bad news, the pain could be widespread.
Typically, the symptoms of this autoimmune disorder of arthritis develop gradually. The occurrence can take several weeks until you notice the first symptom.
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It usually starts with stiffness in one joint such as wrists, soles of feet, or hands – particularly in the morning and will improve by mid-day. This symptom may be vague for a while or may come & go at first, but it will become a regular occurrence as the disease gets worse. It will be followed with other classic symptoms of joint problem such as pain and swelling. Then other joints such as knees, elbows, or ankles could be affected, too.
Another interesting fact, the symptoms of RA tend to affect the joint symmetrically. For instance, once you have it in the left wrist, you are more likely to also have it in your right wrist. See also the differences between RA and OA (osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis) in this section!
However in a few cases, the occurrence of the symptoms could be slightly different, these include:
- They occur quickly over a few days and affect many joints.
- RA is found more often in women than in men. It is not common in young adults, but it is more common in those (especially women) aged between 40 – 60 years old. But if it attacks young women, in some cases the disease occurs in just 1 or 2 joints at first (typically it affects the knees).
- Some sufferers may have bouts of the symptoms in several joints at first. Each of these bouts may last a few days and then resolve. Some bouts may develop before the persistent signs of RA occur.
- Symptoms unrelated to the joint problem could be noticed, too. Even some can be more obvious before symptoms related to joint problem develop. These include fever, weight loss, changes in appetite, anemia, and muscle pain.
RA still has no cure, but some treatments are available to make it treatable and controllable. The severity level varies from sufferer to sufferer. But in general, it is a chronic relapsing joint problem.
It can be persistent and followed with relapsing. In other words, sometimes it can flare up and at other times it resolves or settles down for a while. There is still no explanation of why it comes and goes.
And each case can be unique and different. Sometimes RA is off for several months or even years, but in a few cases it can be constantly progressive.
Poorly-controlled RA can be a serious condition to the health of the involved joint. Each flare-up could pose the risk of damage to the joint, and over time this might end with disability.
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Furthermore, RA is systematic inflammatory joint disorder. The word ‘systematic’ means it can causes complications to other parts in the body (see more in here). Overall, if you have RA, you need to control it as well to reduce the risk of its complications!
Almost people experience muscle pain in some time in their lives, with the wide variety of severity levels from mild to severe (excruciating). The good news, many times it can resolve in a few days, but sometimes it may last for several months or even may become chronic (particularly true if there is underlying condition behind the problem).
There are a wide variety of causes, and one of common causes is muscle cramp or spasm. It is a sudden contraction of muscles. This involuntary contraction can involve one or more of muscles. Typically it affects the muscles of the legs, especially some in the calf.
Stress, tension, minor injuries, and strains are other common causes of muscle pain. This kind of pain usually occurs locally.
But sometimes the pain can be systematic, too. This means it can be felt throughout the body. This type of pain is different. It is more likely linked to an illness, infection, or an effect (side effect) after taking certain medication.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be one of causes behind muscle pain. But it is not the only one because there are lots of health conditions that can lead to this symptom, too. The following are some of them:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome, a disorder that can make you easier to have fatigue that usually doesn’t resolve with rest. Its exact cause is not found yet. But experts think that it may occur due to the combination of some different factors such as viral infection, abnormality in immune system, and the imbalance of hormones.
- Lupus, another autoimmune disorder.
- Claudication, a painful problem that typically occurs because of inadequate blood flow to the affected area. It usually strikes during exercise, but as it gets worse it may strike even though when you are at rest.
- A widespread pain (especially musculoskeletal pain) called fibromyalgia.
- Porphyria, it occurs because of too much accumulation of natural chemicals that make porphyrin (an organic compound that is essential to help regulate the function of hemoglobin).
- Even hypothyroidism (a medical condition to call underactive thyroid) could cause muscle pain, too.
As mentioned before, RA could lead to muscle pain. One of possible reasons is because sometimes the pain of RA can be painful enough to affect the muscle around the involved joint, causing muscle spasm.