Living with RA

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) live with constant pain that disrupts and limits their daily activities. There are many types of medications that a doctor can prescribe to manage symptoms, pain management, and reduce inflammation. There are also positive lifestyle changes that a person with RA can make to increase their chance of maintaining a good quality of life.

When patients take steps to control their RA symptoms, they are at a lower risk of developing additional diseases and permanent damage. Some of the ways patients can take control of their life include:

Physical Activity

Although movement can be uncomfortable due to inflamed joints, keeping a consistent exercise routine can help fix range-of-motion problems and keeps joints flexible. Research has shown that light activities, like walking and yoga, will strengthen joints and reduce the symptoms. Always speak to a doctor or physical therapist beforehand to determine which exercises are safe.

The Arthritis Foundation produces an Arthritis Friendly Yoga Program to encourage patients to participate in yoga.

Swimming, using a treadmill or an elliptical machine, and any other low-impact exercises are usually good for RA patients. In addition, patients can lift weights under the supervision of a personal trainer to build muscle. Keeping muscles strong releases pressure from weak joints and will quicken recovery times.

Exercising will also keep RA patients from leading sedentary lifestyles. A sedentary lifestyle, or one with irregular or no physical activity, can leave RA patients feeling stiff and unable to move. Exercise can also help with losing weight, which is another important factor in managing RA symptoms. Overweight people with RA put much more pressure on their joints. Losing weight will relieve this pressure and therefore the pain. Learn more about exercise programs for RA.

Diet

Diet plays an important part in managing rheumatoid arthritis inflammation. Although there is no specific diet that helps with RA symptoms, foods that are high in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation. These foods will also improve energy levels, making it easier to manage daily pain.
Healthy, anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Salmon and other fatty fish: Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 acids which reduce inflammatory proteins in the body. Try to incorporate 3-4 ounces into your diet twice a week.
  • Blueberries and other berries high in antioxidants: Antioxidants support the immune system and help fight inflammation. Add 1-2 cups of fruit to every meal.
  • Nuts or Seeds: Nuts are full of protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats, which help fight inflammation. They can also help with weight loss.
  • Red Wine: There is an anti-inflammatory component in red wine called Resveratrol that, in moderation, can help with RA symptoms. Always ask your doctor if drinking alcohol is safe for your condition.

There are also foods that cause inflammation that people with RA should avoid. The Arthritis Foundation has extensive information on a healthy RA diet and their guide can be found here or continue reading in our article about inflammatory foods here.

Adding supplements to your diet, such as turmeric and fish oil (click here for more essential oils), may ease arthritis stiffness in the mornings. Eating well and taking vitamins that boost your immune system will keep the body healthy while it deals with RA symptoms. Always discuss supplements and vitamins with a doctor to ensure that they do not interfere with prescription medication.  Learn more about your diet with RA

Fighting Fatigue

Resting the body is an important component of living with rheumatoid arthritis, especially during a flare-up. Patients often experience constant fatigue and tiredness as their bodies use an excess of energy to fight against symptoms. Dealing with the day to day pain and stiffness of RA can drain a person’s stamina. While lots of rest is important, too much can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and more RA pain. Fighting fatigue is all about a balance between rest and activity.

Mental Health

1 in 3 people with a chronic arthritis disease suffer from depression. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease that severely affects the lives and families of people who have it. People often have feelings of isolation or depression when dealing with a chronic illness. An active lifestyle and a reliable support group are necessary for overcoming these feelings. Many healthcare providers offer support and information for maintaining positive mental health.

Finding a Rheumatologist

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you may be wondering what you should do next. It is helpful to speak with a medical professional to discuss the progression of RA and lifestyle changes that need to be made. A rheumatologist is a specialist who is specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

RA is a progressive disease and symptoms may appear and disappear over time. Symptoms should never be ignored or left untreated because of the risk of damage to joints. A rheumatologist can help patients determine what stage their RA has reached and suggest a treatment plan. A rheumatologist can also prescribe medications they should be taking. If a person is having difficulty with painful symptoms, a rheumatologist can suggest actions that will help alleviate the pain, such as exercises, diet changes and supplements.

If you believe that you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the next step is to talk to a doctor or rheumatologist. The American College of Rheumatology offers a helpful resource for locating a rheumatologist in your area:

http://www.rheumatology.org/Directories/Find-a-Rheumatologist

For more information on Rheumatoid Arthritis and helpful resources, visit our RA resources section.