5 Tips for Coping with Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Pain from RA usually can be managed with the right blend of painkillers, but sometimes it hits with blinding force. Even in those times, there are ways to cope.

Elderly hands opening a pill bottle

Take the meds

When it feels as if your entire body is screaming, you need to take prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin. When you live with chronic pain, you're in a race – it’s important to stay ahead of the pain and not allow it to take over. So take the medication and follow them up with more throughout the day at the intervals recommended by your doctor.

Woman laying down by a fireplace


People with RA need a lot more sleep than those who don't, up to 10 hours a night, or eight hours with a nap during the day. Most of us don't do that because modern life is just not geared towards listening to your body's needs for rest. When the pain spikes, give yourself more rest than that. Sometimes it means an extra nap, sometimes it means not doing anything other than reading a good book or watching TV.

Doctor examining man's leg

Involve machinery

The kind of machinery we’re talking about is ultrasound, TENS, paraffin baths and the like. Applying ultrasound to problem areas can offer tremendous relief. Other people find TENS or paraffin baths invaluable in pushing back the pain. If you want to involve machinery at home, consult with a physical therapist. Get their recommendations for what is safe for home use and some basic training in how to use the equipment.

Woman using a computer

Reach out

Just the act of telling someone how crappy you feel can make a really bad day easier to bear. They may not be able to do anything to help you other than offering a gentle hug or kind words, but at least you are no longer carrying it alone. Talking to someone who knows exactly how you feel can normalize your experience and they may even be able to offer tips on how to get through it.

Woman sitting with arms across legs

Get perspective

When the pain is blinding, remembering the path out of it can take a while. But every time you find yourself in this position, the memory of how you get out of it gets stronger. Time gives you this gift. Time helps you build resilience Every time it becomes a little easier to remember that this is just pain and that you know how to deal with it.

Lene  Andersen, MSW
Meet Our Writer
Lene Andersen, MSW

Lene Andersen is an author, health and disability advocate, and photographer living in Toronto. Lene (pronounced Lena) has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since she was four years old and uses her experience to help others with chronic illness. She has written several books, including Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, as well as the award-winning blog, The Seated View. Lene serves on HealthCentral's Health Advocates Advisory Board, and is a Social Ambassador for the RAHealthCentral on Facebook page, facebook.com/rahealthcentral. She is also one of HealthCentral's Live Bold, Live Now heroes — watch her incredible journey of living with RA.