You play a big role in controlling your rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Use these self-care tips to help keep your symptoms in check.
If You Smoke, Quit
Smoking can make symptoms of RA worse and remission less likely. It also makes it tough to stay active – a key part of arthritis treatment. And it ups the risk of other health problems that are common in RA, especially heart disease. Talk your primary care doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Your family and friends care about your well-being too, so they can encourage you along the way.
Losing weight can be difficult. But fat cells release proteins that cause inflammation. Not only does this make joint pain worse, it makes it less likely your medicine will work. Studies show that people who are obese have faster progressing disease than people who are thinner. Even a little weight loss can make a difference. Start with a small goal, like 10 pounds. And remember, the best way to lose weight is to combine healthy eating with regular exercise.
Get and Keep Moving
It’s hard to think of an aspect of RA that physical activity doesn’t help. Exercise
- Reduces inflammation.
- Strengthens your bones.
- Is good for your heart and lungs.
- Relieves pain.
- Improves your mood and sleep.
- Helps weight loss.
- Keeps joints mobile.
Exercise will not harm your joints or cause more pain. You don’t have to do only “gentle” exercises like tai chi or walking. In fact, few exercises are off-limits for people with arthritis. Aim for 30 minutes of cardio most days and weight training at least twice a week. If you haven’t exercised for a long time, you may want to get tips from a physical therapist or certified fitness instructor.
Get Good Sleep
Poor sleep and RA often go hand-in-hand. Pain makes it hard to fall and stay asleep, and lack of sleep makes you more sensitive to pain. Tossing and turning can also set you up for depression and fatigue. Most sleep problems in people newly diagnosed with RA are related to anxiety and uncontrolled RA symptoms.
- Make sure you are taking your medicines as directed.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day.
- Limit screen time before bed.
- Exercise during the day.
- Talk to your doctor if these tips don’t work.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Gum disease may cause your RA to progress faster than if you didn’t have gum disease. It can lead to greater bone and cartilage damage. Be sure to schedule regular dental exams, eat healthfully, and brush and floss every day. If you have trouble taking care of your teeth due to stiff, painful hands, talk to your dentist or occupational therapist about ways to make dental care easier.
Stress may trigger RA flares. Find healthy ways to manage stress that work for you and your life. This can be whatever makes you feel calm.
- Practice yoga.
- Take walks in nature.
- Spend time with your pets.
- Listen to music.