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Rheumatoid Arthritis - Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

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.

actionset.gif Arthritis: Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis

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

The disease itself causes fatigue. And the strain of dealing with pain and limited activities also can make you tired. The amount of rest you need depends on how bad your symptoms are.

  • 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 actionset.gif right shoes that fit well and will not cause joint problems.
  • Use splints, canes, or walkers to reduce pain and improve function.

Stay active

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:
    • Swimming is a good activity if you have joint problems in your knees, ankles, or feet.
    • Bicycling and walking are good activities if your joint problems are not in your legs or feet.

Avoid smoking

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.3 So, if you're a smoker, quit. For more information on how to quit, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Eat a balanced diet

Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It should be low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt and high in fiber and complex carbohydrate (whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables). According to some studies, fish oil may improve your symptoms.4

For more information, see:

1|2

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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