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Slideshow: You and RA

Eat to Move

Though diet doesn't cure RA, the same healthy eating habits that are good for the rest of you are also good for your joints. That includes whole grains, vegetables, fruit, fish, and other types of lean protein. Some foods may help with joint swelling, such as fish oils, nuts, and tea. Limit sugar, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and any foods that seem to aggravate your joints.

Stay Active

Exercise helps keep your joints moving and strengthens the muscles around them. If you're overweight, exercise can also help you lose pounds, which will ease the stress on your joints. Include aerobic or cardio exercise, strength training, and flexibility movements. A physical therapist or a trainer with experience in RA can help you get started safely.

Rest When You Need To

Though you need to be active, make time for rest, too. RA can make you feel especially tired. Don’t try to do more than you can handle. Take breaks whenever you need them. Get at least 8 hours of sleep at night, plus an extra nap during the day if you feel drained. 

Try Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can make your life easier. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help you get stronger and move better, without hurting yourself. If getting around or doing simple tasks is hard, ask your therapist about tools and devices that can help. 

If You Smoke, Quit

Smoking makes your RA symptoms worse and your treatments less effective. If you've tried to quit before, keep trying! And while an occasional drink may be OK for some people, check with your doctor, since alcohol can interact with RA drugs and damage your liver.

Use Coolness and Warmth

When your joints ache, try changing the temperature for soothing relief. Soak in a warm bath, linger under a warm shower, or hold a moist heating pad to sore spots to ease tense muscles. Apply a cool compress or cold pack to numb fiery joints. You can switch between cold and heat to get both benefits.

Open Up

It can be tough to talk about your RA, but try. Your friends and family may not realize what you're going through, especially if you look healthy. It's OK to share when you're having a bad day and could use some encouragement, or if you'd rather they come over for a potluck dinner instead of going out to eat. As you ask for what you need, they'll learn about your RA. Remember the saying: A joy shared is a joy doubled, and a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.

Give It Time to Work

RA treatments can reduce your pain, stiffness, and fatigue, but not overnight. It may take a few weeks or months to feel better. If you're starting a new drug, ask your doctor when you should begin to notice a difference and what sorts of changes to expect. If the time passes and you don't feel better, let your doctor know.

Customize Your Plan

Talk with your RA doctor to develop a treatment plan that works for you. Medicine is a big part of RA treatment, but other things can help you feel better and protect your joints, too. For example, your doctor might suggest physical therapy, stress management, or nutrition counseling.

Give Your Doctor Feedback

You and your doctor are a team. It helps them to know how you're really doing, so be open. If you're noticing side effects or not getting the results you hope for, or if you're not able to take your medicine for some other reason, tell your doctor. Don't stop taking medicine or change the dose unless you've checked with your doctor first.

Treating RA The Role of Biologics

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on April 04, 2013

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