Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes joint and muscle pain. There’s no cure for RA, but early treatment can help manage the condition, keep you active, and improve your quality of life.
The goals of RA treatment include:
- reducing inflammation
- relieving pain
- preventing or slowing down joint and organ damage
Keep reading to learn about treatment options for RA — from strategies you can use at home to prescription medications and supportive therapies.
Here are several strategies you can follow at home to help relieve the symptoms of RA.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Giving your body the nutrients it needs can help reduce inflammation.
- Maintain an active lifestyle. Making movement part of your daily routine can help reduce your RA symptoms.
- Take time for rest. It’s important to take breaks when you need them and not try to push through pain or swelling.
- Use heat to soothe stiff joints. Warm baths and heating pads can help relax stiff joints.
- Use cold to calm inflammation. Ice packs can numb your pain and reduce inflammation.
- Apply topical products. Creams, gels, and stick-on patches can help reduce pain in your joints and muscles.
- Try supplements. Some studies have found that omega-3 fish oil and turmeric can help reduce the pain of RA. Always talk with your doctor before you begin taking any supplements.
Your doctor might prescribe several different medications to help treat your RA. These medications include:
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). DMARDs can help reduce the symptoms of RA and slow down its progression. People often take a combination of two different DMARDs to treat their RA.
- Biological treatments. Biological treatments are often taken if DMADs have not been effective on their own. These treatments are given by injection and work in combination with DMARDs.
- JAK inhibitors. JAK inhibitors are a newer kind of DMARD that are sometimes used to treat severe RA. They’re an option for people who do not get relief from traditional DMARDs or biological treatments.
- Pain management medication. Prescription medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, muscle relaxers, or opioids, can be used to help manage the pain of an RA flare-up.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are sometimes prescribed on a short-term basis to help relieve inflammation.
Supportive therapies such as physical therapy and occupational therapy can be beneficial for RA pain management.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy is a great way to reduce your pain by improving your flexibility and strengthening your muscles.
- Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can show you movements and techniques that might help make tasks easier and can recommend supportive devices.
- Podiatry. A podiatrist can recommend specialized shoes or insoles that reduce pressure on your joints and relieve pain.
- Complementary therapies. Some people find relief from massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and other complementary therapies.
- Surgeries. RA sometimes requires surgical treatment to fix damaged joints or relieve pressure on your nerves.