When you're living with RA, there are days you feel OK, but you wouldn't call them "good days." You don't feel at the top of your game. Perhaps you're worried that a flare is just around the corner. With today's improved RA treatments, OK isn't good enough!
Are you getting regular checkups and seeing a specialist?
Even when your RA is less active, regular check-ins with your doctor are important. The Arthritis Foundation recommends seeing your doctor at least once a year to manage your RA.
If you are not already seeing a rheumatologist, consider asking for a referral to one. Studies have shown that people with RA who see a rheumatologist regularly (several times a year) do better than people who don't. A rheumatologist specializes in the treatment of RA, and may be able to tweak your treatment to help you feel even better.
Have you worked with a physical therapist or an occupational therapist?
Take advantage of these "OK" days to work with a physical or occupational therapist to strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility. The therapist can show you the safest ways to move your body for everyday tasks, like lifting a box, to help protect your joints. They can also teach you exercises to do at home safely. You want to build strength without overdoing it and triggering a flare.
If you haven't tried one, get a referral from your doctor. An occupational therapist shows you ways to do specific tasks at home or at work. A physical therapist helps keep you moving, stronger and more flexible. No matter which type of therapist you choose, it's best to see someone who has experience working with people who have arthritis.
Have you tried Pilates, tai chi, or yoga?
These slow, gentle, flowing exercises help increase balance and flexibility. They may even help reduce pain. Research by the Arthritis Foundation showed that yoga poses, breathing, and relaxation significantly reduce joint tenderness and swelling in some people with RA. Tai chi has been shown to help reduce chronic pain. Pilates strengthens your core, taking pressure off your joints.
All of these holistic exercises benefit your mind and your body. They're meditative, and they increase strength and balance. But perhaps their greatest benefit is that they help reduce stress. Just having RA can increase your stress levels. And stress itself can increase your sensation of pain. If you haven't already, try one of these mindful exercises to unwind and get stronger, all at the same time.
Are you eating healthy foods to fight inflammation?
Some of the healthiest foods help fight inflammation in our bodies. Certain fish, for example, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help suppress chemicals called cytokines, which ramp up inflammation in the body. People with RA have higher levels of cytokines than others. Studies show that omega-3s may ease joint pain and shorten the time you have morning stiffness. Good sources include cold-water fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, or sardines.
Colorful fruits and vegetables are also important to an anti-inflammatory diet. They have potent antioxidants that fight damaging free-radical molecules in the body. And don't forget whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and barley. People who eat whole grains tend to have lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the body.