How to Handle Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 15, 2021

While you may not be able to avoid the pain that comes with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you can take action to limit it. Start with these eight ideas:

  1. Take your pain medication on a schedule and as prescribed. Don’t wait until you are in more pain and have to play "catch-up."
  2. Use a warm, moist compress to loosen up a stiff joint. Try an ice pack on an inflamed joint. Massage may also help. These tried-and-true treatments are easy and can provide some quick relief for mild symptoms.
  3. Make it a priority every day to relax. If you need ideas for healthy ways to manage stress, ask your doctor or a counselor. You may want to try meditation, too.
  4. Focus on things you enjoy.
  5. Join a support group. It’s a great place to talk with people who know what you are going through because they are, too.
  6. Exercise. It will make your joints feel better, not worse. Even if you're in pain, there are some exercises you can do. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about what’s best for you.
  7. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Don’t turn to “comfort food,” cigarettes, or alcohol.
  8. Consider talking to a counselor. These professionals are a great source of support. They can help you look for new solutions to make your life better.

Show Sources

American College of Rheumatology: "Position statement on 'complementary' and 'alternative' therapies for rheumatic diseases," 1998. 
American College of Rheumatology Ad Hoc Committee on Clinical Guidelines, Arthritis and Rheumatism, 2002. 
Arthritis Foundation: "Pain Center." 
Horstman, J. The Arthritis Foundation Guide to Alternative Therapies, Arthritis Foundation, 1999. 
Lee, D. The Lancet, Sept. 15 2001. 
Lorig, K. British Journal of Rheumatology, 1995. 
Miller, R. Miller's Anesthesia, 6th ed., Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone, 2004.

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