Rheumatoid arthritis most often strikes between ages 30 and 40, when most
people have a lot of living to do. Daily life and future plans suddenly have to
include a chronic illness that's as unwelcome as it is unpredictable.
"Being diagnosed with RA is a life-changing experience," says Scott
Zashin, MD, a practicing rheumatologist and spokesman for the American College
of Rheumatology. "It reshuffles the cards people thought they were
Looking to make moving easier and cut back on pain? Flexibility exercises are for you, says April Davis, an occupational therapist at NYU Langone Medical Center.
These exercises can ease pain, prevent injury, and improve your balance. They keep your joints healthy and moving.
There are two basic types of flexibility exercises.
Stretches keep your muscles elastic, which helps you move your joints more easily.
Range-of-motion exercises keep your joints moving their full range and lessen ...
Adapting family life, work, and relationships to the realities of pain and
fatigue is a daily fact of life with RA. Although effective treatments are
available, there's no cure. To those affected, rheumatoid arthritis becomes the
adversary of a lifetime, simultaneously respected and defied.
But although rheumatoid arthritis never goes away, says Zashin, "with
effective treatment, many patients with RA can get their lives back."
Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Invisible Life Partner
Teresa Shaffer of West Virginia was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in
her 30s. The impact of RA on her life was impossible to imagine at the
"Did I know what I was in for? Yes and no," Shaffer tells WebMD.
"You can read about pain and stiffness, but when you start living with the
symptoms, it kind of slaps you in the face."
During 21 years of life with rheumatoid arthritis, including marriage,
raising three children to adulthood, and returning to the workplace as an
advocate for the American Pain Foundation, Shaffer acknowledges RA has imposed
But in Shaffer's view, "If you give up on living life and fighting the
pain, you've let the RA win, and then it will own you completely."
What are the keys to the good life, despite RA? Experts agree: good medical
care by a rheumatologist is essential. People with rheumatoid arthritis also
say self-care, realism, and resilience can make the difference between living
well with RA and simply coping.