Skip to content

How to Handle RA at Work

Font Size
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David Zelman, MD

Years ago, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis might've meant you had to drop out of the workforce. Today, drugs that treat RA can manage symptoms so well that you can keep right on working.

Making small changes like these can also help.           

Recommended Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Coping With the Pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Being in pain can be the hardest part of living with rheumatoid arthritis. While medications help, they don't always make the pain go away completely. Coping with pain means acknowledging that the problem is not just the pain itself. Constant pain has an effect on your whole life. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis are faced with frequent or ongoing pain. While you may not be able to avoid pain, you can take control of the situation. Is the pain of rheumatoid arthritis starting to affect yo...

Read the Coping With the Pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis article > >

Talk to your boss. Don’t be are afraid to ask for help. You might feel guilty or worry about sharing health information. But if you seek help, you may get what you need to do your best.

“The American with Disabilities Act says that [employers] must go the extra mile to accommodate a good employee [if you have 15 or more employees],” says David W. Smith. He's the director of the Disability Assessment Research Clinic at The University of Arizona Arthritis Center. “If you've been a good worker, employers are going to go all-out to keep you on the job.”

Involve your boss or human resources department early. “Don't wait until you're work-disabled to ask [for help],” says John Esdaile, MD, MPH. He's the scientific director of the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada. “Start talking about this problem before it's a problem.”

Take breaks. Pain and fatigue can make work harder, whether you sit, stand, or carry things. Ask your boss if you can take breaks or stretch at set times. If need be, have your doctor write a note.

You may need frequent rest periods, says Harry D. Fischer, MD. He's the chief of the division of rheumatology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. Or, if you sit for long periods, you may need to get up and move around so your joints don’t get stiff.

Change your workspace. Ask your boss if you can set up your work area in ways that help you avoid pain or injury.

Changes can be as simple as a new chair -- or a new keyboard that might be easier on your hands and wrists. Or, you can ask to get your computer monitor and chair adjusted so they're the right height for you, Esdaile says. 

“Work accommodations can often be really cheap,” he says, and they "can make a world of difference.” 

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Four that fight inflammation.
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know about these RA myths and facts?
Patients who take the product would get no
This may lead to worsening symptoms.
Lucille Ball
Hand bones X-ray
prescription pills
Woman massaging her neck
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Woman rubbing shoulder
Working out with light weights