Having lived so many years with RA, I’ve discovered some tools along the way that help make life a little easier.

Pain medications have never really been a part of my treatment plan. Fortunately, I’ve had success finding my own ways to manage RA pain. One of my favorite items is a hot/cold pack.

I prefer the ones that can be made either hot or cold instead of just functioning as one or the other. I’ve amassed quite a collection of them over the years. I even have some for particular parts of the body — one shaped to fit my knee and one shaped to fit my head, for example.

There are plenty of good all-purpose options, too.

I also really value my heated blanket. Along with helping ease pain, a heated blanket can be comforting when you’re not feeling well. It’s like getting a hug from a friend.

I have several blankets, from a lightweight one that can even be used in the summer to a heavy-duty blanket that I rely on when the weather gets cold.

Whenever my pain is especially bad or I feel like I’m flaring, I hide out under my heated blanket. It makes things a little more bearable.

Early on in my illness journey, I remember trying to open a jar of tomato sauce and failing to get the top loose. I was so frustrated that I contemplated throwing the jar against the wall. It would have been messy and dangerous (glass and tomato sauce don’t mix well), so I knew I had to find another way.

The loss of skills that were once so basic can be very upsetting, but finding workarounds can help. A rubber jar grip is a lifesaver when your hands and wrists don’t function like they used to.

When I first got sick, I didn’t realize how difficult managing an ever-changing rotation of medications would be. I thought I could stand in front of the bottles every morning and evening and easily remember what I had and hadn’t taken. But between the anti-inflammatory pills, the immunosuppressive drugs, and the steroids, I ended up confused quickly.

Over the years, I’ve invested in many pill cases to keep track of my medications. The current one I use is compact. When it’s closed, it doesn’t look like a pill case at all, which I love.

Unfortunately, because of its small size, it’s not quite big enough for both my morning and evening medications, so I have two cases — one for each time of day.

Just make sure that whatever pill case you use, it’s easy for you to open. You don’t want to have to fight to open it and end up with pills flying everywhere. If you’re using a pill case that’s hard to open, for example, it probably wasn’t made with RA in mind.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with many RA symptoms, including:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • ulnar nerve compression
  • significant knee swelling
  • other location-specific inflammation and joint tenderness issues

To help manage these symptoms, I use wraps and braces. You can find a variety of wraps and braces at your local pharmacy or online. They can be very useful for pain management.

For my carpal tunnel flares, I use a wrist brace.

For the ulnar nerve compression, I began wearing an elbow brace consistently after my doctor explained the kind of surgery (Tommy John, common among baseball pitchers) and recovery that would go into fixing the issue if I didn’t work on it myself. In an attempt to avoid surgery, I opted for the elbow brace. So far, it seems to be working.

I wear the knee compression brace when I am going on a long walk, especially when it’s hot outside and I know my legs may swell.

If you’re like me and are totally needle-phobic, you’re probably not in a hurry to begin medications that require injections.

I promised myself that I’d never give myself injections, at least until I could no longer avoid these types of medications. When I saw that there was no other option, I bought a tool to help me deal with my fear.

There are several products that can help with this task. Basically, the goal of the device is to prevent you from seeing the needle.

You still have to manually insert the needle and push the plunger down to deliver the medication, but you don’t actually have to see the needle going into your skin. That, for me, was always the hardest part, and this handy tool saves me from that.

None of the tools mentioned here are overly pricey. The heated blanket is probably the most expensive item on this list, but these range in price. Plus, a heated blanket is multipurpose, as are most of these items, which is a nice bonus.

I hope that some of my recommendations help you as they have helped me over the years. Keep in mind that whatever tool you’re using should make your life easier.