salmon salad
1 / 10

Eat Well

Good news! Healthy, delicious foods are good for your whole body, including your joints, although they don’t cure rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Go for plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, fish, and other types of lean protein. Some fare may help with joint swelling, such as fish oils, nuts, and tea. Limit sugar and saturated fat, and avoid any foods that seem to worsen your joint problems.

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exercise class
2 / 10

Stay Active

Exercise helps your joints move well, and it strengthens the muscles around them. If you need to lose weight, exercise is good for that, too. As you shed those pounds, it will ease the stress on your joints. You’ll want to work on aerobic exercise (cardio), strength training, and flexibility. A physical therapist or a trainer with experience in RA can make a workout plan and show you what to do.

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woman napping
3 / 10

Pace Yourself

Though you need to be active, make time for rest, too. RA can make you feel extra tired. Don’t try to do more than you can handle. Take breaks when you need to. Get at least 8 hours of sleep at night, plus a nap during the day if you feel drained. 

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nurse helping woman exercise
4 / 10

Try Physical Therapy

Even a few sessions can make a difference. A physical therapist can teach you safe exercises to make you stronger so you can move better. If you’re having problems getting around or doing simple tasks, ask your therapist about tools and devices that can help. 

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smoking cigarette
5 / 10

Do You Smoke or Drink?

Smoking worsens your RA symptoms and makes your treatments less effective. Work to kick the habit, even if it takes a couple of tries. Your doctor can give you advice and resources. And while an occasional drink may be OK for some people, check with your doctor, since alcohol can affect RA drugs in a way that damages your liver.

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ice pack on ankle
6 / 10

Use Coolness and Warmth

Try a temperature change to ease achy joints. Soak in a warm bath, take a warm shower, or hold a moist heating pad to sore spots to ease tense muscles. Apply a cool compress or cold pack to chill fiery joints. You can switch between cold and heat to get the best of both.

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smiling women
7 / 10

Open Up

It can be tough to talk about your RA, but try. Your friends and family may not realize what you're going through, especially if you look healthy. It's OK to share when you're having a bad day and could use a pep talk, or if you'd rather they come over for a potluck dinner instead of going out to eat. As you ask for what you need, they'll learn about your condition and be more ready to help.

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doctor holding pills
8 / 10

Give It Time to Work

RA treatments can ease your pain, stiffness, and fatigue, but not overnight. It may take a few weeks or months to feel better. When you start a new drug, ask your doctor when you should begin to notice a difference and what sorts of changes to expect. If the time passes and you don't feel better, let her know.

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woman cutting vegetables
9 / 10

What's Best for You

Talk with your RA doctor to set up your ideal treatment plan. Medicine is a big part of it, but don’t forget all the other things that can help you feel better and protect your joints, too. For example, your doctor might suggest physical therapy and stress management techniques. Or she could have you talk to a nutritionist.

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woman talking to doctor
10 / 10

Give Your Doctor Feedback

You and your doctor are a team. It helps her to know how you're really doing, so be open. If you notice side effects or don’t get the results you hope for, or if you can’t take your medicine for some other reason, speak up. Stay on your medicine, and don’t change the dose unless you've checked with her first.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/23/2019 Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 23, 2019


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Johns Hopkins: "Role of Nutrition in Rheumatoid Arthritis Management."

Arthritis Foundation: "Diets for Arthritis Inflammation."

UpToDate: "Patient Information: Rheumatoid arthritis treatment (Beyond the Basics)."

Arthritis Foundation: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Exercise."

National Institutes of Health: "Handout on Health: Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Johns Hopkins: "Symptoms/Remedies on Rheumatoid Arthritis."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview."

News release, American College of Rheumatology.

Masdottir B, Rheumatology, November 2000.

Arthritis Foundation: "Study Suggests Drinking May Lessen the Severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Arthritis Foundation: "Warming Techniques to Relieve Arthritis Pain."

Pradham, E. Arthritis Care & Research, October 2007.

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 23, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.