Living with rheumatoid arthritis often means making changes to your lifestyle. You can do things at home, such as staying active and taking medicines, to help relieve your symptoms and prevent the disease from getting worse.
You can also plan for those times when the disease symptoms may be more severe. It is important to work closely with your health professionals, who may include a physical therapist or counselor, to find ways to reduce pain.
Rest when you're tired
- With severe symptoms, you may need long periods of rest. You might need to rest a joint by lying down for 15 minutes several times a day to relax. Try to find a balance between daily activities that you must do or want to do and the amount of rest you need to do those activities.
- Plan your day carefully, including rest periods. Pace your activities so that you don't get overtired.
Protect your joints
You may need to change the way you do certain activities so that you are not overusing your joints. Try to find different ways to relieve your joint pain.
- Joint pain and stiffness may improve with heat therapy, such as:
- Taking warm showers or baths after long periods of sitting or sleeping.
- Soaking hand joints in warm wax baths.
- Sleeping under a warm electric blanket.
- Use assistive devices to reduce strain on your joints, such as special kitchen tools or doorknobs.
- Choose the right shoes that fit well and will not cause joint problems.
- Use splints, canes, or walkers to reduce pain and improve function.
Keep moving to keep your muscle strength, flexibility, and overall health.
- Physical therapy may be recommended by your doctor.
- Exercise for arthritis takes three forms-stretching, strengthening, and conditioning. Exercise can improve or maintain quality of life for people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Your specific joint problem may guide the type of activity that will help the most. For example:
People with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Smoking increases this risk even more. Smoking may also lower your response to treatment.1 So, if you're a smoker, quit. For more information on how to quit, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Eat healthy foods
Try to eat a variety of healthy foods. Dietary needs are not the same for all people who have rheumatoid arthritis. To be sure you get the nutrients you need, you can ask a registered dietitian to help you make a plan.
- Be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones against osteoporosis. For more information, see the topic Osteoporosis.
- Lose weight, if you are overweight. For more information, see the topic Weight Management.
- People who have rheumatoid arthritis also have an increased risk of heart disease. But healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthy diet, may reduce your risk.
For more information, see:
Take care of your teeth and gums
People who have rheumatoid arthritis tend to get gum disease. Some experts think that infection that enters the body through the mouth may make rheumatoid arthritis worse, although this has not been proved. You can help prevent gum disease through good basic dental care.