Rheumatoid Arthritis is so much more than only joint pain. When RA hits, it hits.
When I am having a bad day, I go through everything I can do to reduce some of the pain or fatigue because being a single mother doesn’t allow sick days. Not everything works some days, but when you are in pain, you are sometimes willing to try anything and everything for relief.
Occasionally I can even predict when a flare will hit, sometimes those predictions are off. Our immune system circadian rhythm goes down in the evening which might be why we tend to feel worse in the evenings when having a cold and especially with an autoimmune disease going haywire. I usually know if it’s going to be an okay night by 5-7 pm. Making note of times your pain starts or increases is beneficial for knowing when to taking your pain medication before the usual witching hour approaches for them to be most efficient. Take your pain meds before the pain gets too bad!
I’ve had a number of paradoxical reactions to medications for my rheumatoid arthritis, so my approach is to try to alleviate pain holistically and inexpensively! I can not take most DMARDs or NSAIDs because of the adverse side effects. I am currently on biologic Actemra and SSNRI Cymbalta. I want to stay on medications to treat my RA as I know how serious it can be to not treat it, but at the same time, I want to be on as little as possible. Treating RA is more than just pharmaceutical medication. Diet, exercise and attitude are crucial.
What I Do For Relief
Drink plenty of water. You can add extra benefits like turmeric, apple cider vinegar, lemon, ginger and cinnamon to hot water for more powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Whatever way you prefer, hydration is always important. Stay away from sugary beverages. Doing so helped me shed a significant amount of weight. That included alcohol.
2. Stretching and Gentle Movements
Do All The Yoga and Meditation. It Helps. Stretching and distraction from the pain are two things I go straight to when my flares hit.
My heated blanket or pad is marvelous for achy muscles, but not flaring joints such as my right knee or hands. Remember to not use too much heat for too long on inflamed joints. A warm bath can ease joint pain tremendously. I especially like to add epsom salts and CBD bath bombs.
Icing inflamed joints is wonderful for inflammation and pain. I also found it good to regulate my body temperature when my autoimmune disease can make it difficult to do so.
5. Sleep and Moments of Rest
Aleeve night time or cyclobenzaprine. Tylenol or melatonin are my go-to when I am in pain and need sleep. Marijuana and a hot bath also helps, you can get CBD-oil bath bombs and soaks. If I absolutely have to, I will take a muscle relaxer or a sleeping pill.
6. Lather It Up
Voltaren or Biofreeze on sore joints. Topped with a cannabis salve. The combination of the two is my favorite for topical relief. Also works well with a menthol gel or cream. I’ve used all three at a time. This disease is painful!
7. Food Is Medicine
Try to eat healthy as possible, food can be a big trigger for making me feel worse. Mostly white flour, processed meats, sugar and dairy bother my stomach, I overall feel sluggish. I purchase a lot of precut vegetables and frozen fruit for easier food prep for both pain and fatigue purposes. I always try to have enough food in the house in case I do flare and can’t really leave… Or it’s take out which then I can’t control it’s nutritional value.
8. Exercise Is Important
Get up and move. Exercise and sauna are usually my go to when I am feeling crummy or starting to feel crummy. I know getting into the gym with RA is difficult, but the benefits it has done for my RA been amazing.
CBD and THC – I find edibles with a combination of THC and CBD to be the most beneficial when it comes to pain relief. However I also use marijuana when I am feeling nauseous or dizzy, flu like symptoms are common. It also helps with the depression associated with RA.
10. Reduce Stress
It’s incredibly stressful to be in pain already, but if there is any way to reduce the stress around you, like tell a friend you can’t make it tonight or call into work, do it. Your body needs to rest when you are in pain and flaring.
11. Ask For Help
It took me a long time to ask for help from my illness. I think still to this day it takes a lot to not feel guilty when you need help, especially with an invisible illness. Asking for help is not easy for everyone but we are get there at one point or another. Ask for help if needed and please, don’t let the guilt get to you. It’s not just in your head and you are not a burden.
12. Doctor! Doctor!
If it gets bad and won’t pass, there could be an underlying cause such as infection or your medications are not working. Listen to your body and know when to make an appointment.