10 Things You Can Do for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Take Your Medications as Prescribed
While over-the-counter pain relievers may help ease joint pain, most people with RA need prescription medications such as DMARDs or biologics.
Years ago, doctors only prescribed DMARDs if aspirin and other pain relievers failed to bring relief. Today, they are likely to prescribe a DMARD soon after you are diagnosed. Studies have shown that starting these drugs earlier may be more effective in reducing or preventing joint damage.
If your doctor recommends a DMARD and you don't take it, you risk serious joint damage that cannot be repaired. Missing doses of DMARDs or biologics could also cause a drop in the blood level of the drugs, potentially leading to a flare of your RA.
It’s important to take medication your doctor prescribes as directed. If you are taking medicine for pain and inflammation and you miss a dose, pain and inflammation could return and be more difficult to relieve this time.
While physical activity is important for everyone, you have extra reason to get and stay active if you have RA. Regular exercise can help you build strong muscles, improve or maintain flexibility, and preserve mobility. It can also help you reduce stress, sleep better, boost your mood, relieve pain, and lose weight, which helps take stress off painful joints.
Even when your joints are swollen and painful, you can still do gentle range-of-motion exercises, which take joints through their full range of movement. Warm-water exercise may also be a good choice during an RA flare.
When your disease becomes less active, you can do more, including exercises to build muscle strength and improve cardiovascular fitness. Talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist about the best and safest exercises for you.
Get Plenty of Rest, but Don't Stay in Bed
Though exercise is important when you have RA, it's crucial that you balance activity with rest. Rest is especially important when your disease is active. It helps reduce joint inflammation, ease pain, and fight fatigue.
How long should you rest? It's different for each person. In general, it's better to take short rest breaks during the day than to stay in bed all day.
If joint pain makes it difficult to get the sleep you need at night, try taking a warm bath before bedtime. And ask your doctor about medications that can help you manage nighttime pain.