• Medication. There is a wide range of medication available to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Some agents, like over-the-counter NSAIDs and prescription corticosteroids, help relieve pain by reducing inflammation. Anti-rheumatic drugs like methotrexate treat the disease itself.
• Diet. Losing weight by eating a balanced diet can reduce stress and strain on your joints. Some early research suggests that increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish or taking supplements may help reduce joint inflammation. On the other hand, limiting your consumption of red meat and saturated fats could help because they contain arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that promotes inflammation.
• Heat and cold therapy. Applying cold packs or ice bags to an aching joint can numb the pain and reduce inflammation and is particularly useful during an arthritis flare-up. Heat therapy through the use of heating pads, warm baths, or other methods can help relax muscles and stimulate blood flow in the area of the joint.
• Massage. Hands-on therapy can bring great relief to muscles and joints, helping to relax and warm muscles that have become tense through chronic pain. Massage can also promote the release of endorphins, naturally produced hormones that act as painkillers. You can try self-massage or visit a licensed massage therapist to help soothe your aches and pains.
• Exercise. It is essential to stay fit, as strong muscles can better support joints racked by arthritis pain. “Most joints rely on muscle,” Hadler says. “Part and parcel of joint inflammation is that the muscles around the joint get weaker, and then the joint is less effective.” Exercise can also improve flexibility and reduce symptoms of pain. Talk with your doctor about good forms of exercise for your particular arthritis symptoms. Non-impact exercises like water aerobics are often best.
• Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can help you avoid pain by coming up with alternative ways to perform household and work tasks that reduce the stress placed on your joints. These can include custom splints that help support particular joints or tools to ease tasks like opening jars.
• Counseling & Meditation. Seeing a therapist can help you deal with issues like depression and anxiety that may stem from your arthritis pain. A therapist also can coach you in coping skills that will allow you to better deal with pain from arthritis flare-ups. Also, meditation can shift your attention away from your pain by helping you relax and focus on more pleasant things.
• Music therapy. Listening to calming or soothing music has been shown to help relieve chronic pain and stress. Choose the music yourself or consult with a credentialed music therapist.
• Support groups. It’s easy to become something of a hermit when dealing with chronic arthritis pain, as you don’t want to move around too much. Joining a support group can keep you from feeling isolated and lonely. Members of the group can also provide tips on managing pain based on what’s worked for them.
The pain of rheumatoid arthritis can lead to frustration, but these coping methods can minimize its effects on your daily routine.