Getting Out and About When You Have RA

Don’t let rheumatoid arthritis keep you from going out and doing the things you've always enjoyed. Whether you want to shop, eat out with friends, or go to a game, you can do it. You might just need to tweak your plans and do a little more to prepare.

Going Out for the Day

Plan ahead. If you’re going somewhere new, do some phone or online research so you know what to expect. If you have a walker or wheelchair, is the building easy to use? If walking is hard, ask how far it is from the parking lot to the door.

Be clear with your friends. Before you head out, be up-front about how your RA affects you. Ask your friends to be flexible. You may need to pare down the schedule a little and take time for breaks. Don’t keep mum and then overdo it, or you could risk a flare.

Start later. Mornings can be tough with RA, and it may take time for your stiff joints to loosen up. So plan outings for later in the morning when you can. Don't rush yourself unless you really have to.

Get an aisle seat. Going to the movies? Sit by the aisle so you can stretch your legs.


Carry carefully. Carry shopping bags over your forearm. You'll spare the weaker joints in your fingers and wrist. Whenever possible, put your purchases in a backpack or bag with a shoulder or cross-body strap.

Come equipped. If shoulder pain makes it hard to reach high shelves, bring along a reacher -- a rod with a clamp at the end.

Don't be shy if you need help. Ask for some assistance if you feel stressed or pooped. Lots of stores have motorized scooters. Some have people on staff who can help you.

Dining Out

Bring your own utensils. If RA affects your wrists and hands, it may be hard to lift heavy glasses or grip thin forks or knives. If that's a problem, bring your own fork, knife, and spoon with you. Ask for drinks in plastic or paper cups, too.

Take a chair. If RA in your hips makes it hard to sit, ask for a chair with arms. You’ll find it easier to get up and down. Stay out of booths, which could be tough to manage.

Avoid having to cut food. If your hands and wrists hurt, see if the kitchen will cut your food before it's served. You might be surprised by how many are willing to. Or order something that doesn't need cutting, like a stir-fry or pasta.

Watch your alcohol. It's easy to lose track of drinks when you're out with friends. But if you're taking some RA medications, like methotrexate, you have to cut way down on alcohol or not drink at all.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 24, 2019



Clifton O. "Bing" Bingham, MD, director, Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center; associate professor of medicine, divisions of rheumatology and allergy, department of medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. "Methotrexate."

Lenore Frost, PhD, OTR/L, CHT, clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT.

Darlene Lee, NP, practice manager, rheumatology clinic, University of California, San Francisco.

Jane McCabe, MS, OTR/L, CAPS, occupational therapist, certified aging-in-place specialist, Laguna Hills, CA.

Patience White, MD, rheumatologist, vice president of public health, Arthritis Foundation.

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