Maintaining Your Independence


Stay Mobile, Stay Independent

  • Proper pacing. Learning when and how to rest can save a lot of energy and joint discomfort. It’s important not to overdo it, but relative resting of the sore joint for 30 minutes or so can help get through a flare-up more quickly and with less intense discomfort. Once your joint pain diminishes, it’s important to get back into the swing of things quickly with some moderate exercise.
  • Take an active role in your treatment. RA symptoms can change, as can side effects, treatment alternatives, and new advances in medication. It’s important to keep up-to-date with your RA medications, and consult your doctor on a regular basis to explore some new options.

Although rehabilitation treatment is central in your RA management plan, don’t get hung up on your disability or limitations. It’s far more productive to focus on your abilities, and using your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses in creative ways.

Tools and Tricks to Help You Out

You have a personal responsibility to manage your disease, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make use of the resources around you. In fact, it may be time to reassess your definition of independence, and adjust your attitude toward help and support.

Embrace Interdependence

Many people don’t like asking for help or accepting help, especially when an illness begins to interfere with physical abilities. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is actually interdependent, rather than independent, because people count on each other every day, for all sorts of help.

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaning on your support network – in fact, it’s a completely natural part of life. Learning to accept help can feel like defeat at first, but the right help at the right time will actually help you stay more energized and in control.

On the other hand, some people can be overly “helpful” with their offers of advice and assistance, and that can be detrimental to your growth, health, and self-care. Take the help that you need graciously, but be sure to assert yourself – and your capabilities – when someone is pushing too hard.

Make Use of Assistive Devices

There are all sorts of tools and devices that can making everyday tasks a whole lot easier, from gripping and grabbing to lifting and reaching. This is one area where your occupational therapist really shines: they will know which sorts of affordable tools will work best in each situation, and may even be able to fashion you a custom-made device to help with your unique mobility issues.

Weight-bearing activities and those that involve resistance are generally the most uncomfortable for the joints, and often the most challenging to manage with RA. Supportive devices that can transfer some of your body weight (like canes, crutches or walkers) and targeted supports for the joints (splints or braces) can help you move more easily, and for longer periods of time.

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