You do your best to live a full, active life with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). But do you recognize any of these common missteps? If they sound familiar, it’s not too late to get back on track.
1. Not Seeing a Rheumatologist
Your regular doctor may have diagnosed your RA. It’s still a good idea to see a specialist, too.
Rheumatologists are doctors who are experts in treating RA and other types of arthritis. A rheumatologist will have the most training in the medicines that treat RA and in finding the right ones for you. If you don’t have one, ask your primary care doctor for a referral.
2. Too Much Couch Time
You need rest, just not too much.
When you have joint pain and fatigue, it's hard to get up and get moving. But regular exercise is key for your health. Too much idle time makes pain, fatigue, and stiffness worse.
When your RA flares, slow down but don’t stop. Do gentle flexibility exercises, like yoga and tai chi. You may also be able to do some exercises in a warm pool, but take it easy.
When you feel better, step up your activity. Add strength training (you can use weight machines at a gym, handheld weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight) to strengthen the muscles around your joints. You should also do cardio for your heart, bones, and mood.
Talk to your rheumatologist, or a physical or occupational therapist, about the best exercises for you. Walking can be a good exercise for people with RA. It’s low-impact, and you can do it anywhere for free. Swimming and water aerobics are also good choices.
3. Canceling Doctor Appointments
When you feel good, do you stop seeing your doctor? You need those regular checkups to keep feeling good and to keep your treatment on track.
During regular visits, your rheumatologist will check on how you’re doing, how well your treatment is going, whether you have any side effects, and tweak your treatment, if needed.
In addition to seeing your doctor, you also may need lab tests or X-rays now and then. Make sure you keep those appointments, too.