Effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can vary from person to person, which means what works for supportive care will vary as well. Work with your healthcare team to find what works best for you. Some options that may help manage pain, inflammation, and stiffness, and improve function include:
Both heat and cold may provide some relief depending on your current situation.
Heat improves blood circulation to the treated area. Applying heat via warm soaks, whirlpools, paraffin wax, or heating pads can be very soothing. Each heat application has different guidelines. Talk to your healthcare team and try different options to see what is best for you.
Cold can help decrease inflammation in an affected joint, thereby relieving pain and improving stiffness and movement. Apply an ice pack for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times each day. Place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.
Certain daily activities can become challenging with RA such as buttoning or zipping your clothing, opening jars, opening doors, or even getting around. Therapies can help improve mobility and function lost from RA
Physical therapy can improve muscle strength and increase joint range of motion. They will also help with splinting and orthotics.
Occupational therapy can help improve your ability to do everyday activities and help with the selection of assistive devices.
Flare ups or progression of the disease may improve function and decrease stress on joints. Options will depend on the joints that are effected. Some include:
Arrange your house so things are easier to get to and to reduce the risk of injury.
Special equipment may be available to help with mobility and everyday tasks to maintain independence.
Occupational therapy for arthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/arthritis-occupational-therapy.php. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra. Updated August 2015. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp. Updated February 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115261/Rheumatoid-arthritis-RA. Updated September 30, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Robinson V, Brosseau L, et al. Thermotherapy for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(2):CD002826.
Using heat and cold for pain relief. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/heat-cold-pain-relief.php. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 10/16/2019