Rheumatoid arthritis is never silent and has a way of rearing its ugly head just when you think things are calm.

One of my family friends suffers from terrible symptoms. Sure, there is always the ongoing “background noise” of RA – fatigue, joint and muscle pain, finger swelling and pain, joint locking. But now her left hip is begging – no screaming – for attention. Her hip problems became apparent almost two years ago when she began getting steroid injections for trochanteric bursitis from her rheumatologist. Bursae are sac-like structures that are found in some joints and help reduce friction that otherwise creates the wear and tear.

The trochanteric bursa is on the outside of the hip and is commonly involved in RA. Over time her left hip progressively grew worse. Sitting for any length of time was impossible, getting in and out of a chair and car was difficult, sleeping on the left side was near impossible, and she had to walk lop-sidedly on her left side while walking. At a recent rheumatology appointment, she was given a fourth cortisone steroid injection into her trochanteric bursa. But the injection brought her no relief. So finally her rheumatologist referred her to an orthopedic specialist.

One of the toughest aspects of arthritis is the continuous pain that can be so debilitating as it was for my family friend. The Arthritis Research UK charity did a survey this year asking thousands of participants how they rate different types of pain and their severity. In the top five items, the first place was given to child birth and the fifth place was arthritis. I didn’t realise that the pain from arthritis could be that severe. In fact over half of the participants said that while the pain from child birth was a one-off event, the pain from arthritis was like having child birth pain continuously. That finding really put it into perspective for me.

One of the things Dr Inam Haq talked about on Zee Companion was that many of us don’t seek help when we are in pain because we may be perceived as whining or complaining over nothing because arthritis cannot be seen, it all happens inside. As a result it’s easy to be dismissed or told to stop complaining. But Dr Haq said that if the pain is quite severe then you must seek help and not shy away from it.

There are also things you can do to help relieve the pain that are considered alternative remedies. For example, he mentioned using turmeric in our food because it contains a compound called Curcumin that had anti-inflammatory benefits. In fact, a research paper came out only a few weeks ago talking about the powerful effects of turmeric. While their experiments have only gone as far as rats, I’m sure those positive results would happen in humans too. Ayurveda already promotes this property of turmeric so it’s not such a new concept, but the appearance of scientific research supporting its use is very encouraging.

As South Asians, turmeric is already a common spice in our cooking, but feel free to add more, and to use it regularly and see if it helps you or not. But do give it enough time; at least two to three weeks should be sufficient.