10 Ways to Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
Living with RA
There are many medications for rheumatoid arthritis, but painful flare-ups are still a fact of life. The good news is there are many things you can do to reduce, and even prevent, pain.
“It is something that affects you throughout life, so you want to find ways to perform activities while protecting your joints and respecting your body,” says Rhonda Reininger, director of rehabilitation compliance at NYU Langone Medical Center's Rusk Rehabilitation.
Here, we show you 10 techniques to help ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
Protect your joints
You should always be thinking about your joints, even when doing small tasks, she says.
Instead of lifting a heavy pot, slide it across the counter; use a shoulder to open a door rather your hand; and hold books in the palm of your hands, not with your fingers.
Walking, cycling, swimming, and light weight training done three times a week for 30 minutes can offer these benefits, but check with your doctor to make sure they are safe for you.
Reininger recommends avoiding heavy weights and beginning with short periods of exercise until you know how a workout will make you feel. If you have pain for more than an hour afterward, you’ve overdone it.
Other tips: Don’t exercise when joints are inflamed; take a break if you feel pain; and alternate positions periodically when performing tasks such as gardening or cooking.
Stretch it out
A physical therapist or other physician can help tailor a stretching program for your needs.
People with RA tend to feel stiffer in the morning than at other times of the day, so take a shower to warm up your joints, and then stretch to help loosen you up for the rest of the day, Reininger advises.
Give it a rest
Taking a break can relax your mind, ease pain in your joints, and help reduce the fatigue that is often associated with the disease.
So how much do you need? “Rest is personalit depends on a person’s endurance,” Reininger says. However, avoid too much rest. A sedentary lifestyle can be harmful, so intersperse rest periods with activity.
Take a warm bath or shower
She recommends taking a warm bath or shower or soaking sore hands in warm water.
Additionally, moist heating pads, available at most pharmacies, can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes at a time to provide temporary pain relief.
Try hot wax
Reininger says this can work better than a heating pad because, as with soaking in a warm water bath, the heat works its way completely around the fingers or toes.
These hot wax baths, which Reininger says that some patients prefer, can be found online or at drug stores.
Try a cane
Canes are easy to find and use and can take up to 20% of your body weight off of your legs, hips, and ankles.
Studies have shown that fat tissue may produce chemicals that can increase inflammation, something rheumatoid arthritis patients need to avoid.
Use special tools
The good news about finding such equipment is that you don’t always have to look in specialty stores for them.
Many tools are designed simply to make them easier to usekitchen tools with large handles, ergonomic can openers, and large drawer pulls.
Because you can’t foresee these events, it’s a good idea to be prepared and plan for problems before they arise. Reininger says to make sure any activity you start is one that you can end partway through.
Break chores up into sectionsplant one garden bed one day and the second another day instead of tackling them all at once. And when exercising, it’s not necessary to do 30 minutes at once; try three 10-minute increments throughout the day.