How Can I Feel Better With Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Maybe you're having one of those "OK" days with rheumatoid arthritis, when you feel alright, but not quite at the top of your game. Want to take it to the next level? Check out some exercise and diet choices that can make a big difference in how you feel.

See a Physical or Occupational Therapist

They can help you strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility. Your doctor can give you a referral.

Therapists 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, but you don't want to overdo it and trigger a flare.

An occupational therapist shows you ways to do specific tasks at home or at work. A physical therapist helps keep you moving and gets you stronger and more flexible. No matter which type you choose, it's best to see someone who has experience working with people who have arthritis.

Try Pilates, Tai Chi, or Yoga

These slow, gentle, flowing exercises help boost your balance and flexibility. They may even ease your pain.

Research by the Arthritis Foundation shows that yoga poses, breathing, and relaxation lower joint tenderness and swelling for some people with RA. Studies show tai chi reduces long-term pain. Pilates strengthens your core, which takes pressure off your joints.

All of these exercises are good for your mind and your body. They can bust stress while they build up your strength.

Eat Healthy Foods

It helps you fight inflammation. Certain fish, for example, are full of omega-3 fatty acids that curb 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.

You also need colorful fruits and veggies for an anti-inflammation diet. They have antioxidants that fight damaging free-radical molecules in your body.

Also go for whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and barley. People who eat whole grains tend to have lower levels of C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation in the body.

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Get Regular Checkups and See a Specialist

It's an important part of staying on top of your RA. Even when your pain and stiffness is less of a problem, keep up with your appointments. See your doctor two to four times a year to make sure your symptoms don't flare up.

If you don't already see a rheumatologist, consider asking for a referral. He's a doctor who specializes in arthritis. He can review your treatment plan and see if it needs any tweaks. Studies show that people with RA who see a rheumatologist several times a year do better.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on December 12, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Pennington Biomedical Research Center: "Women and Heart Disease."

Harvard Health Publications: "Joint inflammation may raise risk of heart disease."

Ohio State University Research: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Affect Risk of Depression, Inflammation."

Arthritis Today: "Fish May Reduce Inflammation."

Harvard Medical School: "Patient Education: 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Arthritis Today: "Eat to Beat Joint Inflammation."           

American Heart Association: "Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations."

Arthritis Today: "Inflammation and Heart Disease."

Arthritis Foundation: "Exercise and Arthritis," "Tai Chi. A Program for Better Living."

Arthritis Foundation: "Quality Measurements for Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Cochrane Summaries: "Tai chi for rheumatoid arthritis."

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Rheumatoid Arthritis and CAM."

UpToDate: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview."

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