In The News: October 2017
Eating Fish May Reduce Pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis
A new study backs up earlier research suggesting that regularly eating fish may help reduce joint pain and swelling for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. For the study, published in Arthritis Care & Research (June 2017), researchers studied 176 people with rheumatoid arthritis who filled out questionnaires about their diet, including frequency of eating fish. They were divided into four groups based on fish consumption: less than one serving per month, one serving per month to less than one per week, one serving per week, and two or more servings per week. Those who ate fish two or more times per week had the lowest scores on a test that measures degree of joint swelling and pain. Each additional serving of fish per week was associated with an added reduction in symptoms.
Yoga for Back Pain
Yoga was found to work just as well for relieving low back pain as physical therapy in a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine (July 2017). The study included 320 racially diverse people ages 18 to 64 with chronic low back pain. They were divided into three groups. One group participated in 12 weekly yoga classes. The second group had 15 visits with a physical therapist. Those in the third group were given a book and newsletters on therapy for back pain. Both yoga and physical therapy worked equally well, resulting in reduced pain and disability for about half of participants. Compared to the education group, those in the yoga and physical therapy groups were 21 and 22 percentage points, respectively, less likely to use pain medication after the 12 weeks. The improvements in both groups were maintained for at least one year.
Exercise Better than Denervation for Some Back Pain
With radiofrequency denervation, heat is applied to destroy a nerve that is causing pain. The procedure can be used to treat chronic low back pain. Three randomized clinical trials, published in JAMA (July 2017), found that for some low back pain, the addition of the radiofrequency denervation procedure to a standard exercise program did not produce added benefit. In one trial, 251 people had chronic pain from facet joints (the joints in the back of vertebrae). In the second trial, 228 people had pain at the sacroiliac joint (between the bottom of the spine and the pelvis). The third trial included 202 people with pain from a combination of locations, including the disks between the vertebrae. In each study, participants had a three-month exercise program either alone or with radiofrequency denervation. After three months, there was no significant difference in pain intensity between the groups in any of the studies.
FDA Approves New Biologic Drug for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The Food and Drug Administration approved sarilumab (KevzaraŽ), a new biologic drug for the treatment of adults with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis (May 2017). Biologic drugs, which are created using genetic engineering techniques, are sophisticated medications that work by targeting parts of the immune system to reduce the inflammation that damages joints. Sarilumab blocks a protein called interleukin-6 (IL-6). It is the second IL-6 inhibitor to be approved. This new drug is not intended to be used as the first choice of therapy. It is used for people who have failed to respond to one or more of the other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, such as methotrexate. It can be used in combination with another drug. New treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis are needed because not everyone will get a satisfactory result from the drugs currently available.