How to Manage RA Pain: 9 Tips

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on March 03, 2023
2 min read

Most people with rheumatoid arthritis have some pain. You can take steps to keep it from stopping you.


  1. Tell your doctor how you feel. They may want to change your medications or their doses. It’s important for you to let them know what’s going on. Don’t say “I’m fine,” or, “It’s OK” if it’s really not.
  2. Take a breathing break. Quietly tune in to your breaths. Breathe in and out normally. Just notice each one. If other thoughts come up (and they will), let them go and turn your attention back to your breath. It’s a simple way to tune in and calm down. Even a few minutes a day can help.
  3. Keep doing things you enjoy. The activities you love help you feel good inside and out. If some are hard to do when your RA flares up, ask your doctor or a physical therapist for tips to make them easier.
  4. Use heat, cold, and massage. Put an ice pack on an inflamed area. Use heat to warm up a stiff joint. Gentle massage can also give quick relief for mild symptoms.
  5. Notice your emotions. If your pain starts to make you feel bad a lot of the time -- you’re depressed, angry, or anxious often -- tell your doctor, or talk with a professional counselor. It may help to do cognitive behavioral training, where you learn new, positive ways to handle pain and other problems.
  6. Join a support group. You’ll be able to talk with people who know what you are going through because they’ve been in the same situation.
  7. Exercise. It makes your joints feel better. Even if you're in pain, there probably are some exercises you can do. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist to get ideas about which activities (such as swimming, biking, or brisk walking) could work for you.
  8. Eat a balanced diet. Go for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. A registered dietitian can give you ideas about meal plans and recipes. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  9. Don't smoke! It often takes several tries to quit, but it’s worth it.