Are you living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Here are a number of techniques and tips for daily living that can help you reduce symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

Physical Activity and Rest

Gentle exercise is a core component of the treatment plan for RA because it has been shown to be associated with significant benefits. Low-impact aerobic activity plus muscle-strengthening and flexibility exercises are thought to be most beneficial. Ideal activities include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics

However, it is important to balance this activity by periods of rest, particularly when RA is active and painful, swollen, or stiff joints pose a significant problem.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Both hot and cold therapies can be useful in the long-term management of and self-care for RA. Heat pads and warm baths are beneficial for soothing stiff joints and muscles, and cold packs are ideal for relieving acute pain and inflammation.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can be helpful in coping with pain and reducing stress. These techniques may include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Guided imagery
  • Visualization
  • Distraction
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Massage


Although there is no specific diet for patients with RA, certain foods may help to relieve or worsen symptoms.

For example, foods rich in antioxidants can help control and reduce related inflammation. The Mediterranean diet, which is high in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E, has been linked to better outcomes in patients with RA.

Individuals with RA are likely to benefit from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidant and vitamin content, and avoiding processed foods. Dairy products and acidic foods, including citrus fruits, may aggravate symptoms.


Most patients with RA have a medication plan from their doctor, which they should follow as prescribed for the best results.

Additionally, topical treatments can be applied directly to the painful area to relieve acute symptoms. Depending on the case, topical treatments containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), salicylates, or capsaicin may offer a benefit.


It is important for people with RA to have a strong support network of family and friends who will help them throughout the changes that occur during the course of the disease.

People with RA are more likely to be affected by depression and anxiety and to have low self-esteem. Many patients may find that discussing struggles and issues with someone else—a family member, friend, or health professional—can help to lift some of the weight of dealing with RA from their shoulders.

Other Self-Help Tips

Tips for living with RA include:

  • Taking control of your treatment and action plan
  • Recognizing your limits and resting when you are tired
  • Socializing and connecting with other people
  • Spending time enjoying some activities by yourself

Finally, if you observe any significant changes in your symptoms or other characteristics of RA, it is best that you seek help from a medical professional who can provide the relevant advice.

Living with RA

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