Surviving the Holidays With RA

Your go-to guide for getting through the holidays despite painful RA symptoms. Get tips for cooking, shopping and socializing with joint pain.

Health Monitor Staff

The holiday season can take a toll on your body, especially when you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Whether you’re hosting a party or shopping for gifts, these strategies will help you beat joint pain and enjoy the festivities.

Get your groceries delivered.
Cooking for holiday guests means extra—and extra-heavy!—groceries. Consider calling a grocery delivery service like Peapod or FreshDirect—you can order anything your local grocery store offers and not only will they bring your groceries to your front door, many will carry them right into your kitchen if you ask!

Make mashed potatoes a snap!
Don’t strain your hands with all that peeling. Once you’re done boiling, put the potatoes into cold water for five minutes. The peels will pull right off! Even easier? Get pre-peeled, pre-chopped potatoes in the freezer section!

Roll out baked goods the easy way.
Instead of using a traditional rolling pin with horizontal handles, look for one designed with offset handles—their vertical position forces you to use the muscles around your upper arms and elbows instead of those in your hands and wrists. (Find ’em in kitchen supply stores or online in both silicone and traditional wood versions.)

Pick dishes you can cook in advance.
Instead of roasted turkey, try making a hearty stew as your main course. It can be prepared days ahead of time and stored. This way you can parcel your cooking out into manageable bits over a week instead of exhausting yourself on one day.

Keep your plastic wrap in the freezer.
Trying to wrap up holiday leftovers? Don’t struggle with sticky plastic wrap, which can be a pain for stiff hands. Store it in the freezer to make it much easier to manage! Tip: Covering bowls? Use disposable plastic shower caps instead!

Heading to a party?
Scope out the room.

“As soon as you walk in, look for a comfortable high seat,” says Shelley Peterman Schwarz, author of Arthritis: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier. “Climbing out of a low-lying sofa or chair will strain joints, especially knees. But before you sit down, take a look at the food being offered. This way, when someone asks if she can bring you a plate, you’ll be able to tell her exactly what you want.”

Mind your medications.
Grapefruit, pomegranate and other juices used as mixers can interfere with arthritis prescriptions. Check with your pharmacist before you imbibe.

Fill up on fish.
If you see salmon, sardines or anchovies on the menu, snap them up. A study in Arthritis Research & Therapy found that the omega-3 fatty acids they contain can help fight inflammation and ease stiffness.

Try this phrase while mingling.
Even if you’re in the middle of a conversation, it’s fine to ask, “Why don’t we go sit down?” In fact, most people welcome the suggestion—even at cocktail parties!

Bring a suitcase to the store.
Of course you know that online shopping will save you from lugging gifts across the mall, but if you can’t avoid the stores, take along a wheeled suitcase. You can put your purchases in that and cart it around to save your fingers and wrists from strain.

Wrap without scissors or tape.
Want an alternative to fancy gift bags? “I like to wrap gifts in colored tin foil or plastic wrap—just scrunch and you’re done,” says Schwarz. You can also try wrapping in fabric and securing with pretty rubber bands.

Look up the mall map before you go.
Most malls post store maps online. Use it to plan out the most efficient way through the mall (including where to park!) before leaving, saving yourself from having to trek any farther than necessary. Tip: Head to the mall early—you’ll hit fewer crowds, which means you won’t stand on line as long. 

October 2013