Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 12, 2020

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) find relief from medication, physical or occupational therapy, or surgery.

But many other strategies also may help control your pain, inflammation, and other symptoms.

Get Moving

Physical activity may be the last thing on your mind. Its many benefits could be worth it if you do it when your RA isn’t as active. Exercise helps keep your joints mobile and may lower your pain. Adding stretching to your routine also may help with flexibility.

Being active can boost your mental health and may even ease depression. Movement also may help you feel less tired. Walking and other low-impact activities are good choices. Talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise routine.

Try a Massage

You may benefit from a massage if you aren’t having a flare-up and feel like your joints can handle it. Your massage therapist should work gently and use medium pressure. This can ease pain, help your range of motion and make you feel less stiff.

Sleep Well

Getting enough quality slumber may lower your pain and fatigue. Limit caffeine and alcohol and avoid tobacco. Eat your last meal of the day several hours before you go to sleep. Keep your bedroom comfortable and free of electronics.

Use Assistive Devices

Buttonhook, special silverware, and other tools and gadgets help make everyday tasks easier to handle so you hurt less. They also help protect your joints. You can use a cane to lighten the load on a knee or hip. Shoes with plenty of cushion in the soles and added arch supports can make walking more manageable. You can check out catalogs or visit a medical supply store.

If you feel like some day-to-day activities aren’t doable for you at all, see if family and friends can help. You could also get cleaning assistance from a housekeeper.

Watch Your Weight

If you are overweight or obese, you can lighten the pressure on your joints by losing pounds. Be sure to tell your doctor about any changes you want to make to your eating habits.


Listen to your body when you are out of energy. You are more likely to feel tired because of muscle weakness and fatigue. A quick nap or pausing to give yourself a break throughout the day can be just what you need. Take care not to let daytime naps steal your sleep at night.

A hot shower or bath can help you unwind and ease stiffness. Cold therapy may soothe joints that have painful, hot inflammation. You can wrap a bag of frozen vegetables or an ice pack in a towel and let it sit on the affected area while you relax.

Take it easy when a flare-up happens. Give your joints the relief they need. You can still stick with your workouts, but keep them short and easy.

Tend to Your Emotions

Sometimes you may feel like RA rules your life. That may lead to depression or anxiety. Let your doctor know if you feel down or frustrated so they help you.

Your family and friends are part of your support system as well. It helps to have at least one person you can confide in. You can help them learn more about your condition by being open.

You may want to talk to other people who can relate to what you’re going through. You can look for an in-person rheumatoid arthritis support group near you or find one online.

Control Stress

Too much of it can worsen your pain, among other things. Try different ways to handle the stress until you find some that work for you. Techniques you can try to release tension include:

  • Tai chi, yoga, or working out in general
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Guided imagery to visualize yourself in a relaxing setting
  • Calming music or sounds
  • Rests throughout the day

Track Your Symptoms

Take notes if your symptoms start to get better, worse, or change in any other way. Or if you have new ones. The information helps your doctor so they can adjust your treatment plan.

Show Sources


Cleveland Clinic: “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

Rheumatoid Arthritis: “Let’s Dig Into Everything about RA,” “RA and Exercise: Does Exercise Help with Pain and Inflammation?”

CDC: “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA),” “Self-Management Education Workshops.”

Mayo Clinic: “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

American College of Rheumatology: “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

Arthritis Foundation: “8 Natural Therapies for Arthritis Pain,” “How to Beat Arthritis Fatigue.”

National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society: “Managing the pain of rheumatoid arthritis,” “Managing Flares.”

NHS: “Living with-Rheumatoid arthritis.”

UpToDate: “Patient education: Arthritis and exercise (Beyond the Basics).”

Evidence-Based Leadership Council: “Find EBLC Programs and Workshops Worldwide.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress.”


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