8 Tips for Managing RA at Work
- 8 Tips for Managing RA at WorkAbout 1.5 million people in the United States are affected by the autoimmune disorder called rheumatoid arthritis, or RA. If you’re one of them, you probably know all about the various types of pain-relief medications and strategies that are recommended, including taking warm baths and going for a swim to loosen up your joints. Obviously, you can’t just hop in a tub and take a therapeutic bath while you’re at work, but these proven strategies may help you manage this condition while you’re on the job.
- Sit up straight.If you spend most of the work day sitting at a desk, you’re likely to get a little stiff, even if you’re not experiencing any flare-ups. The Arthritis Foundation suggests that you evaluate your workstation to make sure it’s ergonomically correct. For example, set up your computer so the monitor is at eye level, and adjust your chair so your feet can rest flat on the floor and your back is well-supported.
- Alternate sides with your mouse.Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the finger and wrist joints, which can make working on a computer a frustrating, even painful, task. Try to alternate hands when you’re doing certain tasks so you don’t strain the muscles and joints on one side—for example, try switching your computer mouse from one side to the other.
- Take a break.It’s very common for people with rheumatoid arthritis to feel fatigued. When you’re feeling sapped of energy, try to take a short rest. If you can find a way to schedule short breaks throughout your day, it can help you conserve your energy and may even help reduce some of the inflammation that plagues your joints.
- Get regular exercise.Exercise can help improve your muscle strength and your joint mobility. A good exercise plan will take into account your specific physical abilities and limitations, as well as your overall health. You can plan your exercise sessions to take place before or after work—or you could schedule them over your lunch break. If that doesn’t work, take advantage of short breaks to take a brisk walk, even if it’s just to the copier and back.
- Stretch periodically.As soon as you finish reading this paragraph, stand up. Take a few deep breaths and perform some slow, basic stretches. This can help keep your joints loose and flexible, as well as reduce stress, which may build up if you’re frustrated with coping with RA.
- Try wearing a splint.Some people find comfort from the extra support of a wrist or hand splint.Some experts, however,have expressed doubt that wearing a splint on your hands or wrists will do much good for preventing deformity or significantly reducing pain—and may even decrease your grip strength. But research published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research found that ring splints have helped many people with RA who suffer from joints that have become stuck in a bent or hyperextended position.
- Try a shoe insert.If you spend a lot of time on your feet at your job—or even if you don’t, but the time you do spend on your feet tends to be painful and fatiguing—you might want to try putting orthotic inserts in your shoes. Orthotics relieve pressure and can reduce foot pain, which can give you relief during weight-bearing activities like walking or climbing stairs. Your doctor may want you to consult a podiatrist about the best kind for your body and situation.
- Stay on top of your meds.Check with your rheumatologist about your medication. You may already be taking a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug, or DMARD, especially if you have what’s known as “established RA”—meaning you’ve had rheumatoid arthritis for more than six months. But your prognosis may prompt your doctor to consider a combination of DMARDS or even a different type of medication known as a biologic agent.
8 Tips for Managing RA at Work