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Coping With Fatigue, Weakness, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Experts share strategies for keeping RA from interfering with your daily life.

Coping Strategies to Relieve RA Fatigue and Weakness continued...

4. Use assistive devices. The simplest everyday tasks can seem like monumental chores when your wrists feel weak and sore. Using assistive devices can make those tasks much easier. Grab a jar opener instead of trying to twist open a tight lid. Simplify getting dressed with the help of a buttonhook and elastic shoelaces. A wide variety of tools are available for people with RA.

5. Take your mind off your RA. It's important to keep your body active when you have rheumatoid arthritis. It's also important to keep your mind busy. Make an effort to get out of the house and visit with family and friends. Practice yoga or deep breathing exercises. They make good distractions, and yoga can help keep your joints limber.

6. Watch your diet. Being overweight or obese is hard on your joints, and it can make your RA less likely to go into remission. That's why it's important to eat a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Eating fish or taking fish oil supplements may help too. There is some evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish reduce RA stiffness and inflammation.

7. Listen to your body. When you're tired or in pain, stop what you're doing and take it easy until you're feeling stronger and more alert. "I push myself too hard," Bearden admits. "When something needs to be done, I do it. And sometimes I overdo it and the fatigue gets worse."  Bearden says that in the six years since she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, she's gotten better at listening to her body and easing off when she's starting to feel tired.

Husni says that if you take your medication as your doctor directs and adopt just a few of the coping strategies listed here, you can overcome much of the weakness and fatigue that comes with RA. When you do, you'll find it much easier to function despite having RA.

Bearden says her treatment regimen has brought her back to just about normal. "There are things that I have to be careful about," she says, "but I pretty much do what I want to now."

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Reviewed on June 04, 2009

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