Day and Night: 24 Hours With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Find out what it's like to get through the day while dealing with rheumatoid arthritis at home, work and school.

1. Getting Through the Day With RA
When you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), making it through a day can often require energy you just don’t have or cause pain you definitely don’t need. Here’s how to manage your activities in ways that prevent pain and conserve energy.
2. Heat Up Your Morning
Joints can feel especially stiff and achy when you rise or after a period of inactivity. To help start your day off smoothly, take a long, warm shower. A bit of light stretching can help loosen up tight joints even more.
3. Get It Done Early
Many people with RA say they have more energy early in the day. If you’re one of them, schedule important tasks first to up the odds that they’ll get done. If something sits at the bottom of your to-do list for a week or more, delegate it – or better yet, let it go.
4. Make Adjustments at Work
If your job requires standing in place, consider getting a padded floor mat or perch on a stool if you can. If you sit all day, stand up often and add stretches like this one: Stand with hands clasped behind your back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together then roll your shoulders forward and back.
5. Sit Pretty
If your work keeps you deskbound, make sure your setup is ergonomically correct – meaning your body position improves function and prevents pain. Your computer monitor should be at eye level; your feet should be flat on the floor and your chair should support your back.
6. Take a Power Nap
When you’re feeling overworked or exhausted, take a 20- to 30-minute nap. It may sound counterintuitive, but taking a quick snooze can rev your energy and serve as a mental restart – giving you stamina to get through the second half of your day.
7. Take Your Time
Budget at least a half-hour more than you think you’ll need when running errands or shopping. When you have plenty of time, you won't feel as stressed, tired or overwhelmed. And you’re less likely to rush and strain your joints and muscles in the process.
8. Get Physical
Physical activity is a must when you have RA. Stretching improves range of motion. Strength training builds muscles that support joints. Cardio boosts your mood and overall health. Aim for 30 minutes of low- to no-impact aerobic activity – such as walking or swimming – at least five days a week.
9. Shop Smart
Spend less time on your feet by making a list that corresponds to the store’s layout. At the grocery, get carryout service to take bags to your car. Ask family or a neighbor to help unload. Not up for leaving the house? Online retailers will deliver pantry items, clothing and more right to your door.
10. Get a Handle on Housework
Ask family members to help or hire a housekeeper if you can afford it. When you do clean, don’t do too much at once. Rest when you need to and alternate hands – holding a mop or broom in your right or left hand for long stretches of time can strain the muscles and joints on that side of your body.
11. Conquer the Kitchen
Take regular breaks from stirring, dicing or scrubbing. Buy pre-cut fresh or frozen veggies. Cook in big batches when you feel good. Freeze portions for reheating on days you don’t. Get a jar opener, an electric can opener and use lazy Susans to make cabinet or pantry items more accessible.
12. Communicate by the Numbers
Your RA can change from day to day. To help loved ones understand how it affects you, use a numeric scale from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst ever). You could say, “Yesterday I was at 3. I cleaned the house and got through work. Today, I'm at 7 and can't make dinner. Can you?”
13. Sleep Soundly
Get adequate sleep. Create a bedtime routine: Wash your face, brush your teeth, put on your PJs. Go to sleep and wake up at regular times. Ban smartphones, TVs and computers from the bedroom. Get regular exercise, stop smoking and avoid caffeine within two hours of bedtime. If RA pain keeps you up, call the doctor.

Employers can help their employees who have arthritis as well as their organization with free information and resources from the Arthritis Foundation. Learn more at Arthritis@Work.

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