Living and working with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) comes with its challenges. You might feel great some days and find it difficult to perform simple tasks on other days.
Taking an active approach to understanding your condition and managing your symptoms can help you feel more empowered. There are many things you can do to take control and manage your RA symptoms every day.
Here are some ideas of how to do just that.
1. Keep all appointments with your doctor
If you’ve been feeling good for a few days, it might be tempting to stop with your medication or cancel appointments with your healthcare team.
It’s really important to continue with your treatment, even when you’re feeling on top.
Your regular checkups are a good chance to review how your treatment is going with your doctor and make any tweaks that are needed.
If you don’t already see a rheumatologist, you can ask for a referral from your doctor. A rheumatologist specializes in treating arthritis and may be able to offer advice and treatment options to help you.
2. Stay informed
Staying informed about your condition and the different treatment options available may help you feel more in control of your health and your life.
In addition to talking to your healthcare team, you can do your own research at home. Reading about how others cope with RA symptoms at work or in their day-to-day lives may give you ideas that you can incorporate into your own life.
3. Stay active
You might not feel like exercising when you’re experiencing pain and stiffness in your joints, but staying active is important for your long-term health. Certain types of exercise may even ease your symptoms and prevent health complications from developing later on.
When you’re experiencing flare-ups, it’s important to slow down and look after your body. Instead of stopping exercise completely, try slow and gentle exercises instead. For example, yoga and tai chi.
Low impact exercises like bike riding, swimming, and walking tend to be more gentle on the joints. Pair these with strengthening exercises, such as resistance bands and pilates, to help build muscle.
4. Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet and making sure you get the right nutrients is important for everyone and will help you better manage your overall health.
Foods that are rich in omega-3 like salmon and tuna can help reduce inflammation which may ease joint pain. Stick with whole grains as these may also help fight inflammation.
Staying on top of your weight can help prevent health complications and may ease pressure on your joints. If you need help with your diet, you can speak with a nutritionist.
5. Look after your mental health
Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging and painful. It’s natural if you feel a little down at times.
If you find that your mood stays low, make sure you speak to your doctor so that you can get the right treatment and techniques to start feeling better again. Your doctor can refer you to a psychologist or therapist or they may prescribe antidepressants.
Joining a support group for others living with rheumatoid arthritis may help you feel connected and supported.
6. Use stress management techniques
When you encounter challenges at work it can be stressful. It can help to learn about different techniques you can use when things get stressful or overwhelming.
Take breaks regularly throughout the day and try to stay active. Taking a walk during your lunch break can help make you feel more relaxed.
Close your eyes and focus on your breaths for a few minutes. You could also try meditation apps and mindfulness exercises.
Maintaining a regular sleep pattern can also help reduce stress levels. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, avoid screens at night time and keep your caffeine intake low.
7. Plan ahead
Practice planning ahead for your day so that you can conserve energy and avoid things that cause flare-ups. Planning ahead can also help you pace yourself better so that you don’t overwork.
Think of areas that slow you down or cause you pain and ways that you could improve those tasks. For example, if you use the phone a lot at work it may cause pain and fatigue if it is cradled between your ear and shoulder. Instead, use a headset to receive calls.
If typing for a long time on the computer is problematic, you could use voice activation software to perform your computer tasks more quickly and effectively.
8. Consider ergonomic equipment at work
Maintaining good posture throughout the day is important for reducing pain and inflammation in your joints.
In addition to being mindful about your posture, consider using ergonomic equipment at your work. This could include things like a chair with back support or a keyboard that helps you keep your wrists and hands aligned.
Staying in one position for too long can also make symptoms worse. Try to avoid sitting or standing for too long, or repeating the same action for an extended period of time.
Take breaks when you need to. Consider an adjustable desk so you can alternate between standing and sitting.
9. Get your workplace evaluated for potential accommodations
If you’re finding it hard to cope at work but aren’t sure what the solution is, it may help to have your work professionally assessed. A workplace assessment can help identify what you need to make your job easier and safer.
Your employer is legally required to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace so you can do your job well. They may also be eligible for funding from the government for things like equipment, training, or software that you might need.
10. Ask for help if you need it
Living with rheumatoid arthritis isn’t always easy. If you’re struggling to cope, you’re not alone. Support is available and it’s important to ask for help if you need it.
If you’re having difficulties with work and rheumatoid arthritis, the Disability Employment Services program can help you access the support you need whether that’s finding employment opportunities, having your workplace assessed, or accessing accommodations to help you succeed in your job.
There may be challenges along the way, but having the right support in place can help you feel empowered and in control of your health and your life.