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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Lifestyle changes can help slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and return you to your normal level of functioning. They include:

  • Exercise
  • Appropriate rest


It is important that you eat a healthy diet. Be sure you get adequate amounts of calories, protein, and calcium. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to see if you need to avoid alcohol.

There is evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the inflammation associated with RA. Omega-3 is found in fatty fish and certain plant seed oils. Talk with your doctor to see if these oils would be beneficial to you.


Reasonable, careful exercise can help improve mobility and flexibility. Exercise can strengthen your muscles, which may help keep your joints more stable. Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. You will need to tailor your exercise program to be protective of the joints that are affected by rheumatoid arthritis. You may be advised to consult an exercise physiologist or physical therapist to help you design a safe exercise plan.

Get Appropriate Rest

It is important that you get appropriate rest, especially when the disease is active. It is also important that you stay as active as you possibly can. Talk to your doctor about how to strike a balance so that you are well rested, but still getting adequate exercise.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Always contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve with the recommended changes
  • Your symptoms worsen
  • You develop any new symptoms

Revision Information

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: Accessed July 24, 2013.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Updated April 2009. Accessed July 24, 2013.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 2, 2013. Accessed July 24, 2013.