Living with rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t have to limit your mobility or keep you from work and social activities. With effective treatment and daily at-home care, you can maintain your quality of life, and it’s possible your disease could even go into remission.
Over 1.5 million Americans live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the synovium that lines and protects your joints. While it can lead to painful swelling and stiffness, you can reduce your risk of flare-ups and protect your joints from permanent damage by taking a few key steps.
Here at Houston Pain Specialists in Houston, Texas, Hui Kang, MD leads our team of pain management experts who offer customized treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. As with many conditions, prevention is a critical part of pain management. Here is our list of the top five steps you can take to reduce your pain at home:
1. Take your medication
Dr. Kang prescribes medication because it works, and you should take it as directed. Whether you need to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), steroids, or have injections to reduce the inflammation in your joints, take your meds to stay in front of the pain instead of putting it off until you’re already in pain — why suffer when it’s not necessary? We understand that some medications do cause side effects. If you develop side effects that interfere with your life, make an appointment to discuss your symptoms with us and learn about other treatment options.
2. Balance activity with rest
Exercise is a critical part of RA treatment. Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, yoga, and pilates can significantly reduce your pain and stiffness. Additionally, spending time outdoors is a remarkable mood lifter and can help you feel better about life in general.
However, you have to balance your physical activity with sufficient rest. Taking breaks throughout the day and following a relaxing bedtime routine that helps you sleep through the night can help you stay rested. This reduces the risk of triggering an inflammation flare-up in your affected joints.
3. Use hot and cold therapies
Like other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis causes both inflammation and stiffness, which respond to cold and heat, respectively. While you learn your body’s signals about what it needs, a good rule of thumb is that a warm bath or compress can reduce stiffness and pain, and ice packs are the go-to for acute pain.
4. Check your diet
While there isn’t a specific diet for rheumatoid arthritis, there are foods that have anti-inflammatory properties and other foods that you should limit or avoid. For example, you should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Cherries, citrus fruits, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. You should also make sure you get your omega-3 fatty acids from fish and nuts. Consider cutting out or reducing red meat, dairy, sugar, and alcohol, which all trigger inflammation.
5. Manage your stress
Stress causes physiological changes in your body, including an inflammatory response. Make stress management part of your routine. Everyone manages stress differently, and we can help you find the right method for you. Some patients enjoy taking a walk outside, while others have found that meditation, yoga, or journaling helps them best. These activities can also help you cope mentally and emotionally with your pain.
Managing your rheumatoid arthritis is critical to protecting your long-term health and wellness. To learn more about managing your RA pain and preventing flare-ups, give us a call at 713-664-2662 or request an appointment online today.