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Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2012 Dec;16(6):509-17. doi: 10.1007/s11916-012-0303-x.

Pain in rheumatoid arthritis.

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Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre, Academic Rheumatology, University of Nottingham, City Hospital, Nottingham, NG5 1PB, UK.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease of synovial joints, and pain is the predominant problem for people with RA. Pain in RA is distressing in its own right and adversely affects disability and psychosocial outcomes. RA pain may be due to joint inflammation and also augmented by central sensitization and structural joint damage. Noninflammatory pain mechanisms may confound the assessment of disease activity in RA, and treatment should aim to both suppress inflammatory disease and relieve pain symptoms. Effective treatment stratification requires a full assessment of pain mechanisms by clinical history and examination, as well as objective assessment of synovitis and joint damage. Biologic therapies and joint replacement surgery have major impacts on RA pain, but may only be available to those with most severe or advanced disease. Holistic approaches to pain management are indicated, including pharmacologic analgesia where randomized controlled trials (RCTs) offer evidence of efficacy.

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