It must be understood that the causes of chronic arthritis are quite complicated, and that any single or simple form of treatment is inadequate to deal with all the factors involved.
One of the most important elements in the treatment of arthritis is rest. Or at least the wise institution of exercise interspersed with rest. Patients have a tendency to try to assure themselves that their joints are better today than they were yesterday, and prove this by taking a walk, or, what amounts to the same thing, to try to “limber up” in the morning. These limbering-up exercises frequently break down many of the defense mechanisms and spots of healing which have occurred during the rest period of the night. I heard recently of a woman with arthritis who had been to eight different doctors, who had tried all methods of treatment except rest. And with the continuation of these treatments combined with a period of rest in bed of several weeks, she made marked improvement.
Next to the judicious combination of rest and exercise the most important methods of treatment are still the use of physiotherapy. This includes the use of heat and cold. Especially the extreme and safe heat that can be produced by the electric current, known as “diathermy.” As is well known, such cases do better in a dry, hot climate, such as Arizona and New Mexico, and are better in the summer than in the winter. These observations are simply confirmation of the effectiveness of this principle of the use of heat. Massage and hydrotherapy or water treatment come in the same category of physiotherapy.
Drugs are used mostly to relieve pain. Cincophen or atophan, which was very popular a few years ago, is now looked on with disfavor on account of its liability to produce degeneration of the liver. Probably the best drug for the purpose indicated is still aspirin.
Medicines of other kinds, however, are useful in combating the secondary symptoms of the disease. Iron for anemia; digestive mixtures, especially diluted hydrochloric acid, for the stomach, and attention to the gall bladder and the large intestine, all pay dividends in improvement. Thyroid extract is sometimes used in order to increase the general nutritional exchange. The use of vaccines, either vaccines from the “typical strain” of the streptococcus, which is supposed to be the causative factor in the disease, or vaccines given for the reason of their ability to produce general immunity reactions, are quite universally used.
The removal of foci of infection is so generally carried out as to be assumed without mentioning.