Art Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Appling Art Therapy at Home

Visual Arts

For as simple and straightforward as music engagement is, visual arts therapy is on the other end of the spectrum. Visual arts therapy is focused on creating art in any way, shape and form imaginable. Whether it is sketching, painting, sculpting, card making, scrapbooking, knitting, sewing or crocheting, it counts as visual arts.

The benefits of visual arts therapies are as numerous as the types of activities. Benefits include improved expressions of grief and loss associated with the RA diagnosis and improved levels of positive emotions like self-esteem and sense of purpose. Visual arts can also help by reducing depression, anxiety, and reoccurring thoughts of your illness.

You may be thinking that the pain in your joints, especially your hands, will make any of these artistic ventures impossible. Reconsider. Many people with RA find that using their hands more regularly leads to improved functionality and reduced pain. Even intricate movements needed for knitting can be beneficial due to the repetition. Rather than focusing on what you cannot do, experiment to find the best options.


If a whole-body experience is what you seek with your art therapy, you can dive into movement-based expression. The range of options is broad, so think of any action that involves you moving your entire body in a purposeful way. Dance and tai chi are great examples to consider.

Movement-based art therapy has been shown to improve physical symptoms, decrease pain and improve range of motion. Additionally, it has aided in improving the mood and body image of research participants.


For you, starting slowly will be the best course of action. No one expects you to move from low activity to a full-fledged breakdancing routine. Explore simple sequences online. Instructional tai chi videos are widely available to benefit your RA and mental health symptoms. Since safety is of paramount importance, always consult with your treatment team to establish your limitations.

Written Expression

Depending on the level of pain in your hands, the thought of expressive writing may be a negative one. Don’t despair, though. There a number of methods to support in this process. If pen and paper are out of the question, try a keyboard. If the keyboard is no better, try voice recognition software or a voice recorder. This type of art therapy is too important to bypass since benefits include pain, anger and depression reduction.

Journaling is the most thought of version of therapeutic written expression, but it does not end there. Poetry, short stories, long stories, fiction, and nonfiction can all be helpful to you in your process of coping with the diagnosis and the pain that follows.


RA is not a positive diagnosis, but there are steps you can take to make it less negative in your life. Art therapy is one such step. Try one version, all four, or take it another step to find an artistic journey that was not described here. You have so much to gain.


The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature

Previous 1 2
Up next:
Why Consider Dance Therapy for RA?

How Dance Therapy Could Ease Your Arthritis Symptoms

Have you considered dance therapy for RA treatment? Dance is a great way to get exercise into your day.
by Amy Manley on November 5, 2014
Click here to see comments