Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic and potentially debilitating inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints. Symptoms can include fatigue, occasional fever, morning stiffness, difficulty moving a joint or several joints, pain and inflammation in or around a joint and a general sense of malaise. Rheumatoid arthritis varies from person to person, but most cases are chronic, meaning they never go away. Some people have mild or moderate disease, with flares (periods of worsening symptoms) and remissions. For others, the disease is active most of the time. When a person suffers from arthritis, the individual's immune system cells malfunction and attack his/her own joint cells. The resulting joint damage can be disabling.
Most inflammatory arthritic conditions are thought to be caused by hypersensitivity and/or malfunction of the immune system through an auto-immune response. This means that the immune system initiates an exaggerated or improper response to its own tissues and attacks its own cells. Since the immune system depends upon normal communication from the brain and spinal cord to control and coordinate its functions, alterations in neurological function can contribute to malfunctions in the immune system. Specifically, an imbalance in autonomic nervous system function can produce or exaggerate auto-immune reactions within a person's joints or other locations.