Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be challenging, but many strategies can help manage inflammation and decrease pain. Here are ten tips for living well with rheumatoid arthritis:
Tip 1: Get the diagnosis in the right time frame
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing RA and preventing long-term damage. If you suspect you may have RA, seeing a rheumatologist as soon as possible is essential.
However, it can be challenging to get an appointment due to long wait times and limited access to specialists. In such cases, consider seeing a rheumatologist online. Telemedicine practices like Rheumatologist on Call can provide quick access to a rheumatologist, making a big difference in your treatment outcome.
Tip 2: Be prepared to work with a team of specialists
Managing RA involves a holistic approach considering the disease’s physical, emotional, and social aspects. Working with a team of specialists can help you in better living with rheumatoid arthritis. Your healthcare team may include a rheumatologist, primary care physician, physical therapist, and occupational therapist.
Each team member will play a different role in managing your disease, and working together with them is essential to achieve the best possible outcome.
Tip 3: Your nutrition is key in decreasing pain & inflammation
If you are living with rheumatoid arthritis, nutrition plays a significant role in managing RA symptoms. A healthy diet can reduce inflammation and pain, improve joint function, and boost overall health. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish can provide the nutrients your body needs to manage RA symptoms.
Limiting processed foods, refined sugar, and saturated fats is essential for better living with rheumatoid arthritis. Some RA patients living with rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet focusing on foods that reduce inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet typically includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts.
Tip 4: Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for managing RA symptoms. Poor sleep can lead to increased pain, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. People living with rheumatoid arthritis may experience poor sleep because of pain, stiffness, or medication side effects.
To improve your sleep quality, you may want to try the following tips:
- Establish a regular sleep schedule
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
- Create a relaxing sleep environment
- Utilize relaxation strategies like meditation deep breathing exercises
- Talk to your doctor about medication options for improving sleep.
Tip 5: Stay physically active
If you are living with rheumatoid arthritis at a young age, regular exercise is crucial for managing RA symptoms. Exercise can reduce pain and stiffness, improve joint function, and boost overall health. Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, and cycling are generally safe for better living with rheumatoid arthritis.
Resistance training can also be beneficial for building strength and improving joint stability. Talking to your doctor before starting an exercise program and working with a physical therapist to develop a safe and effective exercise plan is essential.
Tip 6: Manage stress
Managing stress is essential for people with rheumatoid arthritis, as stress can increase inflammation, pain, and fatigue. Many stress management methods include mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
Finding ways to relax and unwind is important, like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to music. Feel free to contact a therapist or counselor for additional support if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Tip 7: Use assistive devices
There is no shame in getting help from time to time if you are living with rheumatoid arthritis. Using assistive devices can help reduce joint stress and make daily tasks easier. Devices such as openers, door openers, canes, braces, and splints can support the joints and reduce pain.
They can also help you maintain your independence and continue to do the activities you love.
If you need help deciding what devices to use, speak with your rheumatologist or physical therapist. They can recommend devices specific to your needs and help you learn how to use them effectively, or you can watch my Youtube video on my channel to learn more.
Tip 8: Take medications as prescribed
While nutrition, exercise, and managing stress can help manage RA symptoms, they cannot cure the disease. Taking medications as your physician prescribes is crucial in managing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologics are shown to reduce inflammation and slow the progression of joint damage.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking medications. If you have questions or concerns, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help you understand how the medications work and what to expect.
Tip 9: Join a support group
Joining a support group can be helpful for people living with rheumatoid arthritis. Support groups provide a safe space to share experiences and offer emotional support. It can also be an excellent opportunity to learn from others who have similar experiences and share tips and strategies for managing symptoms.
There are many support groups available both online and in person. Consider joining my Facebook community (Autoimmune and Arthritis Support Group) or a local chapter from the National Arthritis Foundation. The National Arthritis Foundation works with physicians that will support newly diagnosed patients and patients diagnosed many years ago.
Tip 10: Stay informed
Staying informed about rheumatoid arthritis can help you manage symptoms better and make informed decisions about your healthcare. Choose your rheumatologist wisely. Do not let your insurance choose it for you. You have to find a physician that has the expertise and knows whom you will trust and whom you will feel comfortable telling that physician your concerns.
Do not take the negative experience of others and reflect them on you. Every patient is unique, and every patient reacts differently to a treatment. That is why it is crucial to have a personalized approach.
One more thing, I know your family and your friends have the best intentions for you, but someone else might be the expert in the RA field. So when it comes to medication or newer therapies, ask your physician and do not rely on information from friends or Dr. Google.
Remember, Dr. Google does not have a medical degree and is not treating RA. There are many reputable sources of information, including the Arthritis Foundation, which provides educational resources and support for people living with rheumatoid arthritis.
In conclusion, managing rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging, but it can be done effectively with the right strategies. Incorporating assistive devices, taking medications as prescribed, joining a support group, practicing good posture, and staying informed can all effectively manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.
By working with your rheumatologist and incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can take control of your condition and live a fulfilling life.