5 Ways to Save Your Social Life from RA

How to get more energy and less joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis

Medically reviewed in March 2020

It's not easy being the life of the party when you're aching with sore, stiff joints. If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you've probably passed up opportunities to get coffee with a friend, see a movie with your partner or go to the big game because of your pain.

A study published in 2015 found that chronic conditions can put a damper on both your work and social life. Specifically, people with arthritis are more likely to miss work, skip social situations and suffer from psychological distress. The study also found these issues intensify when someone has more than one chronic illness, especially when one of them is a joint disease.

The bad news: RA puts you at risk for other serious health issues, making maintaining a social life an even bigger challenge.

The good news: It's a challenge that can be overcome. Here are several cheap, proven methods to ease RA pain, improve physical function and boost mental health:

Try this easy, slow workout. While it may seem impossible to exercise, there are plenty of low-impact workouts that can help loosen up and stretch out your joints—and serve as a social outing. Yoga, tai chi and even just 10 minutes of walking with a friend can all help improve your joint health and keep you off the couch. Look for a class or program just for people with joint problems, like the Arthritis Foundation's Walk With Ease Program.

Take a break, guilt-free. It might seem silly to suggest relaxing after recommending exercise, but fatigue is a serious side effect of RA, and it's important to rest when you're feeling extra run down. During a flare-up, rest your joints and scale back to light activity until the swelling goes down. And when it does? Get back to your low-impact fitness routine, so you can get back to your life.

Think it through—out loud. Whether it's with your doctor, a close friend or a therapist, talking about your feelings and the discomfort that comes with RA can have huge emotional benefits. And don't be afraid to approach your loved ones. They may want to hear about your RA, but don't know how to bring it up in a careful, considerate way. There are also several online communities where you can talk about your treatment and get advice about living well with the disease. This kind of support doesn't have to be forever; use it as you need it.

Reach for this win-win. If you have a spare tire (or two), it could place an extra burden on your joints and maybe your confidence, too. There's no overnight solution, but staying active every day and keeping an eye on your diet can help you drop those extra pounds and help ward off other major problems, like heart disease and diabetes.

Grab some alone time. Sometimes being ready to be social starts with being alone. When RA starts to feel overwhelming, it's important to take some time for yourself to get your mind off the pain. Whether it's taking a calming bath, watching your favorite TV show or journaling with a hot cup of tea, doing an activity that brings a smile to your face will help keep the blues at bay and contribute to overall better health.

If you're still feeling down about RA, visit your doctor. Ask what else you can do to lessen your joint aches while boosting your spirits. With the right treatment plan and smart lifestyle choices, you'll be able to transform back into a social butterfly.

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