rheumatoid arthritis often means making changes to
your lifestyle. You can do things at home, such as staying active and taking
medicines, to help relieve your symptoms and prevent the disease from getting
- Arthritis: Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis
You can also plan for those times when the disease symptoms
may be more severe. It is important to work closely with your health
professionals, who may include a
physical therapist or counselor, to find ways to
Rest when you're tired
The disease itself causes fatigue. And the
strain of dealing with pain and limited activities also can make you tired. The
amount of rest you need depends on how bad your symptoms are.
- With severe symptoms, you may need long periods
of rest. You might need to rest a joint by lying down for 15 minutes several
times a day to relax. Try to find a balance between daily
activities that you must do or want to do and the amount of rest you need to do those activities.
- Plan your day carefully, including
rest periods. Pace your activities so that you don't get
Protect your joints
You may need to change the way you do certain activities so that you are not
overusing your joints. Try to find different ways to relieve your joint
- Joint pain and stiffness may improve with heat
therapy, such as:
- Taking warm showers or baths after long
periods of sitting or sleeping.
- Soaking hand joints in warm wax
- Sleeping under a warm electric blanket.
assistive devices to reduce strain on your joints,
such as special kitchen tools or doorknobs.
- Choose the right shoes that fit well and will not cause joint problems.
- Use splints, canes, or
walkers to reduce pain and improve function.
Keep moving to
keep your muscle strength, flexibility, and overall health.
- Physical therapy may be recommended by
Exercise for arthritis takes three forms—stretching,
strengthening, and conditioning. Exercise can improve or maintain quality of life for people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Your specific joint problem may
guide the type of activity that will help the most. For example:
- Swimming is a good activity if
you have joint problems in your knees, ankles, or
- Bicycling and walking are good activities if your
joint problems are not in your legs or feet.
People with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Smoking increases this risk even more. Smoking may also lower your response to treatment.3 So, if you're a smoker, quit. For more information on how to quit, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Eat a balanced diet
Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It should be low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt and high in fiber and complex
carbohydrate (whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables). According to some studies, fish oil may improve your symptoms.4
- Be sure to get enough
vitamin D to protect your bones against osteoporosis.
For more information, see the topic
- Lose weight, if you are
overweight. For more information, see the topic
- People who have rheumatoid arthritis also have an increased
risk of heart disease. But healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a
healthy diet, may reduce your risk.
For more information, see:
Take care of your teeth and gums
People who have rheumatoid arthritis tend to get gum disease. Some experts think that infection that enters the body through the mouth may make rheumatoid arthritis worse, although this has not been proved. You can help prevent gum disease through good basic dental care.
- Dental Care: Brushing and Flossing Your Teeth