How can I help my RA?

RA Tips

There are no tips that can make it easy to live with RA. There is no way to prevent RA or insure a remission. However there are some things that can help you to take the best care of yourself possible.

  • Don’t be ruled by fear. You’ll need courage to fight RA. Expect the best from new treatments, for example.
  • Keep a version of your medical record at home with medication lists, lab reports, and doctor’s notes. Make it electronic if you have the opportunity.
  • Prepare for doctor visits, gathering information, questions, and topics for discussion.
  • Know why each medication is prescribed for you. Get information from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and reputable websites about drug interactions or side effects to watch for.
  • Look for doctors who consider the ways that RA is affecting your life and your functionality.
  • Make your health and healthcare a priority, being vigilant with preventive care.
  • Become informed about your illness, tests you should have to monitor disease progress or drug side effects, or RA news such as newly approved treatments.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Some helpful ideas from patients on managing RA fatigue.
  • Accept that you are the one who must manage your RA even though you may include helpful family members and concerned professionals.

Joint protection

You can’t choose which joints RA attacks, of course. But you can choose to take care of those joints to help avoid greater damage or deformity from the disease. Once you learn a few basic principles of joint protection, you will be able to apply them in ways that are specifically practical for you.

Basic RA joint protection principles:

  • Go easy on joints where the disease is active (in flare).
  • Use the largest joint possible to perform a task.
  • Avoid twisting motions such as wringing or tightly gripping tools.
  • Alternate rest with activity.
  • Modify items so that they are larger and easier to grasp.
  • Use assistive devices to make movements less stressful.
  • Use two hands where you used to use one.
  • Accept help when it’s available to “save” your joints.
  • Wear gloves or braces to protect joints when they hurt and you must use them.
  • Avoid carrying objects that feel too heavy or doing things that pull your joints out of position.
  • Do not push through pain or force joints to do repeated painful movements.

More help for RA joint protection
RA Joint protection techniques.

Mayo Clinic page about joint protection with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Joint Protection Principles

Can exercise help my Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  • Exercise is helpful to strengthen muscles that support joints, encourage bone density, and maintain cardiovascular vitality. However, exercise will not make RA less active or damaging. (1) Rheumatoid Arthritis patients should exercise if they have periods of time between flares when the disease is not very active.
  • Frequent gentle range-of-motion movements or stretching are often considered safe if not done to the point of pain. Ideally, medical treatments would decrease disease activity enough to make this feasible.
  • It is also possible to exercise joints that are not affected by RA. (2)  For example, if a man’s hands and shoulders are affected, but his feet and knees are not yet, he could safely run or walk. However, golf or tennis might not be feasible.
  • Care must be taken to protect joints that are affected by the disease. (3) Supportive devices such as braces or wraps may be helpful if a joint is weakened, but not in flare.
  • Joints that are in active flare should be rested and protected from extreme use. (4)  They are more vulnerable to damage since connective tissues are often weak, allowing unnatural movement and making joints unstable.

Can diet help my RA?

Eating a healthy diet is even more important when a person has Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA tends to be a wasting disease, causing loss of healthy body weight. Untreated RA usually leads to severe loss of lean body mass (muscle and bone).

It is especially important that people with RA eat sufficient amounts of protein, calcium, and certain vitamins such as D, B, and C. Deficiencies are common and can be exacerbated by treatments. Diet is also important to help fight osteoporosis.

There have been many experiments with diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis to attempt to prove a link between the two. However, there is no evidence that diet can prevent or treat RA. (5) Some people do have food sensitivities which increase inflammation and they feel better if they avoid those foods. (6) It is also a good idea to use food or supplements to add anti-inflammatory items to the diet even though it does not replace appropriate medical treatment. (7)

Footnotes

1) http://www.consultantlive.com/display/article/10162/35315?verify=0

2)"Occupational and Physical Therapy for Arthritis." Cleveland Clinic. October 2007.

3)Young, Kelly. "Rheumatoid Arthritis Joint Protection." RAWarrior. August 2009.

4)"Rheumatoid arthritis pain: Tips for protecting your joints." Mayo Clinic. February 2010.

5)Chang-Miller, April. "Rheumatoid arthritis diet: Do certain foods reduce symptoms?" Mayo Clinic. November 2009.

6)Koch, Cheryl. "Nutrition & Rheumatoid Arthritis." John's Hopkins Arthritis Center.

7)Young, Kelly. "Healthy Eating Strategies & Rheumatoid Arthritis Food." RAWarrior. Date.