By Skyla Carmon
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint pain, joint swelling, and joint stiffness. People sometimes also experience symptoms that do not directly involve the joints, such as fatigue, eye inflammation, or itching from rheumatoid arthritis.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but there are many treatment options that can control pain and protect the joints from damage. In addition to over-the-counter pain medications and prescription medications that can control RA, there are many popular self-managing techniques that can help minimize discomfort. Below are three at-home options for managing rheumatoid arthritis.
1. Try Heat or Ice
Applying heat or cold can be helpful for reducing all types of pain, including pain from RA. Some people with RA like applying an electric heating pad or sitting in a warm bath to reduce achiness and stiffness. Using cooling measures like ice packs or other frozen items can help reduce inflammation and pain in both joints and muscles. Whether heating, icing, or both, take care not to damage your skin by exposing it to heat that is too hot or cold that is too cold or by leaving on the hot or cold item for too long. Ten minutes is a good place to start.
2. Manage Stress
Stress can be a trigger for RA flares. While it’s impossible to remove all stressors from your life, there are some good ways to lessen its impact, which may help minimize some RA symptoms. Low-impact exercises such as tai chi, yoga, or walking are great for you physically and mentally. Other options for managing stress include meditation or mindfulness practices, journaling, and listening to calming music.
If stress is getting the best of you, it may be necessary to look at your obligations and see what can be offloaded. For example, you may be able to ask a partner or older child to help with certain household chores. You may also decide that certain obligations can be cut entirely from your list.
Sometimes stress becomes more than you can handle on your own or with the help of friends and family. In these cases, speaking to a mental health professional can be beneficial.
3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
While it is important to stay active during the day, it is just as crucial to wind down and get a good night’s sleep. People with rheumatoid arthritis often experience pain that can make restful sleep more challenging. In addition to pain, medications that cause wakefulness or other health conditions that cause sleeplessness may also contribute to poor sleep. Talking to your doctor about pain control, medications that may disrupt sleep, and other health conditions is a good place to start if you’re struggling with sleep.
There are also proactive steps you can take at home to help improve your sleep, including:
- Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Limiting screen time before bed
- Using stress management techniques like yoga or meditation before bed
- Establishing a sleep routine, including going to bed at the same time each day
While rheumatoid arthritis is a lifelong condition, you can take practical steps every day to improve your quality of life. Incorporating home remedies like heat and ice can help manage pain, while working to reduce stress and improve sleep can help you better control symptoms in the long term.