Living with rheumatoid arthritis
Being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis can be life changing, but there are several tips that can help Rheumatoid Arthritis patients manage living with the long-term condition. All of the following tips can be referenced in what is called ‘self-management’, which consists of the patient accepting his/her condition while refusing to be controlled by it.
Protecting your joints
While suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, it’s important to take care of your joints and prevent any further damage. There are simple changes that can help you achieve it:
Taking warm longer showers or baths after long periods of sleeping or sitting.
Using devices to reduce strain on your joints, such as doorknobs, etc.
Using a cane or a walker to reduce pain and ease your mobility.
The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) presents on its website a more exhaustive list of tips on that matter. Moreover, an occupational therapist can help you make simple adaptations at home as well as at work and can suggest some special equipment.
Despite not having a clear link to the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, a healthy balanced diet is advised (not just Rheumatoid Arthritis patients but for everyone) in order to monitor your weight. Indeed being overweight puts extra strain on one’s joints. The goal is to reduce inflammation and prevent heart diseases. Arthritis Care has published a guide entitled ‘healthy eating and arthritis’ regarding that matter.
Although, people with Rheumatoid Arthritis can also experience trouble with their gums, such as jaw problems and a dry mouth. It is also proven that smoking has a bad impact on Rheumatoid Arthritis patients.
The importance of exercising
It’s important that you exercise to keep your muscle strength and flexibility. It can reduce pain and improve the patient’s range of movement and joint mobility, general health and overall fitness. There are three main types of exercise:
Stretching before and after each session, to lengthen the tissues around the joints.
Strengthening for an increase of your strength and power.
Conditioning, usually through aerobic exercises (walking, cycling, Tai chi, swimming, etc.) to increase your endurance.
You can ask a physiotherapist for advice regarding an exercise programme that will fit you the best. Keeping in mind that Rheumatoid Arthritis can increase fatigue, it might be necessary for you to adapt your activity according to your condition.
What about rest and sleep?
The disease itself, as well as the pain, can cause additional fatigue. You may need to take longer rest periods and pace yourself depending on how bad your symptoms are.
Some people also find it more difficult to deal with the pain at night time. Sleeping under an electric blanket to manage warmness or taking painkillers before going to sleep can help get rid the pain during the night and avoid stiffness of the joints and discomfort in the morning.
How Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect work
Depending on the type of work, it can be more difficult for some patients to cope with the condition at their workplace. Even the most common symptoms can affect the patient’s ability to continue working. However, it does not mean that one has to stop working in every case. In fact, with the appropriate support from their employer, occupational therapist or support group, many find it easier to manage. A resource entitled ‘I want to work’ and produced by The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society is available online and goes through the subject in more depth.
Whatever the long-term condition, it usually affects people around the patient too and it can take a toll on their relationships. This is why it is important to discuss it with your loved ones and not be afraid to ask for help or demanding it. By doing this, you can actually grow closer and even build new links.
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