Is your current treatment plan meeting your health needs? Many different medications are available to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Other interventions can also help you lead a healthy and comfortable life with RA.
Take a moment to consider if your RA treatment plan is fulfilling your needs, or if something needs to change.
For most people, the goal of treatment is remission. When you’re in remission or experiencing low disease activity, you have very few or no symptoms of RA.
If you experience chronic pain or regular flares related to RA, make an appointment with your doctor. Tell them about your symptoms. Ask them if changes to your treatment plan might help.
Your doctor might:
- adjust your medication dosage, switch your medications, or add a new medication to your plan
- refer you to a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or other specialist for treatment
- recommend massage, acupressure, or other complementary therapies
- encourage you to change your lifestyle, including your exercise routine or diet
- advise you to consider surgery or other interventions
Taking steps to control your RA symptoms is essential. It can help improve your quality of life and lower your risk of joint damage and other complications.
Poorly controlled symptoms can make it difficult to complete daily tasks at work and home. Over time, inflammation from RA can also damage your joints and raise your risk of disability. If day-to-day activities are a struggle for you, it’s time to seek help.
If you’re having trouble completing routine activities at work or home, your doctor might refer you to an occupational therapist. This type of specialist can help you learn how to manage daily activities and environments with RA. For example, your occupational therapist might:
- teach you how to complete routine tasks in ways that put less strain on your joints
- help you adjust your workstation or home to make them easier to navigate
- recommend custom-fitted splints, assistive devices, adaptive equipment, or other aids
There are many strategies and tools that can help you adapt to life with RA.
Regular exercise is critical to your overall physical and mental health. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it may also help reduce arthritis-related pain and fatigue. But it’s important to choose activities that limit strain on your joints.
If you have concerns about your current fitness routine, consider meeting with a physical therapist. Look for someone who has expertise in arthritis. They can help you develop a workout plan that meets your fitness goals, while minimizing your risk of flares and injury. When you have RA, you should always speak with your doctor or physical therapist before trying a new workout.
Some foods can make inflammation worse. Others can help limit inflammation and improve your overall health. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important when you have RA, because it minimizes strain on your joints.
If you’re overweight or you have concerns about your diet, consider making an appointment with a registered dietitian. They can help you develop an eating plan that’s nutritious and sustainable. In some cases, they might recommend dietary supplements, such as fish oil supplements.
Living with chronic pain or disability can take a toll on your relationships and mental health. Some of the lifestyle changes involved in managing your condition may also raise your risk of isolation, anxiety, and depression. In turn, mental health challenges can make it harder to manage RA.
If you feel chronically worried, stressed, sad, or disinterested in activities that you usually enjoy, it’s time to seek help. Your doctor might refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health specialist for treatment. They might recommend one or more of the following:
- medication, such as antidepressants or antianxiety drugs
- talk therapy or counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- stress management strategies, such as meditation
- changes to your lifestyle
It might also help to join an in-person or online support group for people with RA. This can help you connect with those who understand some of the challenges that you’re facing.
Seeking treatment for joint pain and swelling is essential — but it’s only one part of staying healthy with RA. It’s also important to develop healthy lifestyle habits, adaptive strategies for managing daily tasks, and a strong emotional support network. In many cases, there are healthcare professionals who can help you achieve these goals. If you have questions or concerns about your current treatment plan, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options.