Health behavior changes:
Certain activities can help improve a person's ability to function independently
and maintain a positive outlook.
Rest and exercise: People with rheumatoid arthritis
need a good balance between rest and exercise, with more rest when the disease is
active and more exercise when it is not. Rest helps to reduce active joint inflammation
and pain and to fight fatigue. The length of time for rest will vary from person
to person, but in general, shorter rest breaks every now and then are more helpful
than long times spent in bed.
is important for maintaining healthy and strong muscles, preserving joint mobility,
and maintaining flexibility. Exercise can also help people sleep well, reduce pain,
maintain a positive attitude, and lose weight. Exercise programs should take into
account the person's physical abilities, limitations, and changing needs.
Joint care: Some people find using a splint
for a short time around a painful joint reduces pain and swelling by supporting
the joint and letting it rest. Splints are used mostly on wrists and hands, but
also on ankles and feet. A doctor or a physical or occupational therapist can help
a person choose a splint and make sure it fits properly. Other ways to reduce stress
on joints include self-help devices (for example, zipper pullers, long-handled shoe
horns); devices to help with getting on and off chairs, toilet seats, and beds;
and changes in the ways that a person carries out daily activities.
Stress reduction: People with rheumatoid arthritis
face emotional challenges as well as physical ones. The emotions they feel because
of the disease-fear, anger, and frustration-combined with any pain and physical
limitations can increase their stress level. Although there is no evidence that
stress plays a role in causing rheumatoid arthritis, it can make living with the
disease difficult at times. Stress also may affect the amount of pain a person feels.
There are a number of successful techniques for coping with stress. Regular rest
periods can help, as can relaxation, distraction, or visualization exercises. Exercise
programs, participation in support groups, and good communication with the health
care team are other ways to reduce stress.
Healthful diet: With the exception of several
specific types of oils there is no scientific evidence that any specific food or
nutrient helps or harms people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, an overall nutritious
diet with enough-but not an excess of-calories, protein, and calcium is important.
Some people may need to be careful about drinking alcoholic beverages because of
the medications they take for rheumatoid arthritis. Those taking methotrexate may
need to avoid alcohol altogether because one of the most serious long-term side
effects of methotrexate is liver damage.
Climate: Some people notice that their
arthritis gets worse when there is a sudden change in the weather. However, there
is no evidence that a specific climate can prevent or reduce the effects of rheumatoid
arthritis. Moving to a new place with a different climate usually does not make
a long-term difference in a person's rheumatoid arthritis.
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases -