Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can bring many physical and emotional challenges to your life. It helps to have people who understand and can help. Tap into sources of support when you have questions about RA or your medications, need help to manage daily tasks when your pain and fatigue flare up, or listen to you when RA gets to you, emotionally.
Sources of RA support can include:
- Family and friends
- Local in-person and online-only patient support groups
- RA education and self-management classes
- Health care professionals, including medical and mental health experts
Like any other chronic condition, RA can be a lot to deal with, affecting your body, relationships, work, and activities.
At times, you may have flare-ups of RA symptoms like severe pain or fatigue that make it harder to do and enjoy your normal activities. You may need to spend a lot of time and energy dealing with doctor visits, medications, and self-care. And there can be emotional challenges.
Your support network can make you feel less alone in it. They might also be able to help you with tasks like housecleaning or errands when you don’t feel well enough to do them.
Sources of Support
There are many possibilities. Choose what’s comfortable for you and fits your needs or lifestyle.
Family and friends. Your loved ones care about you and want to help as much as they can. Let them. Ask for their help with chores or for emotional support. Having strong connections to friends and family can ease stress and even boost your immune system.
Support groups. Think about joining an RA, arthritis, or chronic illness support group. Nonprofit groups like the Arthritis Foundation or many hospitals sponsor RA support groups. At meetings, people with RA share information, tips, and personal experiences. You can ask questions and offer your insights and support.
Search online for local RA, arthritis, or chronic illness support groups, or ask your rheumatologist or nurse to recommend a support group near you.
Online support. If you don’t like going to meetings or there are no RA support groups nearby, look for support groups that meet online or on social media.
RA education and self-management classes. Ask your rheumatologist or search online for classes about RA, including courses for those who are newly diagnosed or who’ve lived with RA for years. You can learn more about RA’s effect on your body and your daily life, and how to self-manage RA better. RA courses are available in English and Spanish in some areas. There are also RA education toolkits that you can order by mail.
Health care professionals. Turn to the experts when you have questions about RA, possible complications, or treatments: your rheumatologist, nurse, or other health care team members. Ask questions at your medical appointments to get information and support, tips to relieve pain or fatigue, and a review of your treatment plan.
Physical therapists and occupational therapists can help you adapt ordinary movements and work tasks to protect your joints, so daily activities are easier and less painful.
A mental health professional, such as a licensed psychologist, or social worker can help you deal with RA and its emotional impact. Ask your rheumatologist to refer you to therapists or other health professionals.
Nonprofit and government health organizations. Nonprofit organizations like the Arthritis Foundation, American College of Rheumatology, hospitals, and government health agencies like the CDC are all good resources about living with RA.
When you have support and information about RA, you’ll feel more connected and confident about managing your chronic illness so you can live your fullest life.