Life Hacks for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on September 17, 2022
4 min read

When you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you know that every day can be different. Some are easier than others. And the hard days can be really hard. That’s why it can be so helpful to plan to simplify day-to-day life.

These shortcuts, tools, and tricks can help you get things done with less pain and stress. You’ll save energy, ease the strain on your joints, and stay organized.

When you tune in to what’s going on inside you, you’re better prepared to adjust your plans to take good care of yourself.

Pay attention to pain. If you have pain that lasts longer than an hour or you notice that an activity has made your joints swell, those are signs that it might have been too much for your body. Take a step back or rethink how you can do the same task with less stress next time.

Pace yourself. Every day with RA can be a bit like a marathon. It’s wise to pace yourself so you’re not sprinting all the time and exhausted. Whatever you are doing -- work, chores, errands -- aim for a medium pace and take lots of breaks.

Move wisely. Change the way you use your joints so you don’t put as much stress on them and you’ll have less pain and fewer injuries. Try these simple tips: Set your feet slightly apart when you stand. Or place one foot a little in front of the other to help you balance. If you have to stand up for a while, lean against a wall or chair to take the load off your body.

Set yourself up for less physical stress. If you work at a desk, place a rolled pillow or towel in the small of your back while you sit. Use a footrest or low box to keep your hips, knees, and ankles bent at a 90-degree angle. You can get stiff if you stand or sit for too long in one spot. Get up, move around, and stretch often. Take breaks when you need them.

Use this chore cheat sheet.

Break tasks up and spread them across the week: laundry one day, mopping another. And you may even need to break chores into several days, maybe picking one floor per day or choosing to do only three out of six total laundry loads.

Invest in tools that make it easier. Lightweight, easy to handle brooms, vacuums, and dusters will make chores easier on your joints and you.

Make your cleaning products kinder to carry. Pour some from larger containers into smaller bottles and using a caddy or rolling tray to move them from room to room.

Clean with care. Bend with your knees and not your back. When possible using a pushing motion (mopping, sweeping) rather than a pulling motion. Wear knee guards if you need to be on your knees or alternate the knee that has the pressure on it. Switch between jobs that require standing and sitting.

Plan ahead and put the most important errands at the top of the list, and then on down by level of importance. If pain or fatigue slows you down, you will have gotten the key ones done first. Leave the rest for another day.

Make a list of your errands and what you need at each location so you don’t get home and realize you’ve left something behind that you’ll have to go back for on another day.

Order online for bulk and heavy items to so they’re delivered to your home.

Invest in a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or other device so that you can just toss ingredients in and let them do the work for you.

Shop for and prepare multiple meals at once when you are feeling good. That way you can store extra in the fridge or freezer to pull out on painful days.

Hang pots and pans and other frequently used equipment on a wall, so you don’t have to bend to find it in a cabinet.

Invest in a lightweight hand mixer to make whisking and other mixing jobs easier.

Have a back-up plan. If cooking is too much to do on a bad day, have healthy items in mind if you need to turn to take-out.

Assistive devices can make a huge difference in your comfort and your ability to do things easily. From the high tech to the old school, consider investing in:

  • A sturdy shower chair, removable showerhead, and hand rails
  • A heating pad (keep one handy in any room where you relax)
  • An extendable grabbing tool to open doors and reach items
  • Easy-grip kitchen and other utensils
  • Attachments for your steering wheel and/or gear shift that make them easier to hold
  • An extra cane to keep in your car