If you are one of the 1.5 million people living with rheumatoid arthritis, you know that the joint pain, swelling and inflammation that you experience can make some activities difficult. You may have days that your symptoms don’t bother you much at all and other days when your symptoms make daily life difficult. Having rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t mean you have to give up the activities that you love. Making small lifestyle changes can help improve your quality of life and help you get back to the activities you love.Use these coping tips to manage your condition better and enjoy the things you love once more.
1. Get Moving
When you feel swollen and stiff, moving may be the last thing on your mind, but it’s one of the best things that you can do to improve your arthritis symptoms.Exercise helps prevent long-term problems, such as loss of joint mobility, can help improve your mood and may make sleeping easier.
If you are new to an exercise routine, start small. Aim for getting 20 minutes of exercise per day, three days a week and work up to exercising one hour a day, five to six days a week. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming and cycling, can help keep your heart strong without being too hard on your joints. Stretching before and after exercising may help prevent muscle pain and stiffness. If you are in too much pain to exercise, talk with your doctor and a physical therapist who specializes in rheumatoid arthritis for suggestions.
2. Get More Sleep
It may be difficult to get a good night’s rest when you have rheumatoid arthritis. Joint stiffness and pain may make you wake up throughout the night and may make it difficult to get back to sleep. Studies show that lack of sleep may actually worsen the symptoms, so it’s important for you to get at least six hours of sleep each night. Before turning to sleep medications, try lifestyle changes. Go to bed at the same time each evening, keep cell phones and televisions out of the bedroom and avoid stimulants, such as caffeinated coffee or soda, six hours before bedtime.
3. Soak in the Tub
Warm 20-minute baths can not only help relax you before bedtime, but the warm water may help improve your symptoms. Researchers at the National Aquatics& Sports Medicine Institute at Washington State University in Spokane found that warm water therapy reduced pain, loosened joints, improved circulation and decreased inflammation. Researchers believe that water therapy helps by reducing the force of gravity on the joints, which helps reduce pain, inflammation and swelling.
4. Lose Excess Weight
If you are overweight, the excess weight puts more pressure and stress on your joints, which can make your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse. Getting down to a healthy weight can help improve your symptoms. Eat a balanced diet that has whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise as much as possible in order to shed the extra pounds.Including foods in your diet that have anti-inflammatory benefits, such as tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, kale, blueberries and cherries, may be especially beneficial.
5. Deal with Flares
When your rheumatoid arthritis flares up, it’s important to talk with your doctor about your medications. Some may need to be adjusted or added in order to prevent your symptoms from becoming severe. Utilizing hot and cold packs,resting and using muscle relaxation techniques may also help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are experiencing a rheumatoid arthritis flare; your family and friends want to be there for you and telling them exactly what you need is the best way to get the help you need.
6. Stay Optimistic
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition, which means that you will be dealing with it for the rest of your life. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition may make you feel sad or depressed. Some studies indicate that people with rheumatoid arthritis are two times as likely to become depressed versus those without the condition.
Staying optimistic and taking charge of your condition is essential in healthy rheumatoid arthritis management. Learn to say “no” to tasks that are not a high priority so that you can focus on the things that are most important to you. If your feelings of sadness last more than a few weeks or worsen, talk with your doctor about being screened for depression.
Article by – Caryl Anne Crowne
Caryl Anne Crowne is a contributing writer and media specialist for Aveanna Healthcare. She often produces content for a variety of medical blogs.