Shlecter underwent joint surgeries and rehabilitation, used a walker and a wheelchair, and lost her ability to walk. Eventually, she got on the road to recovery by taking Plaquenil and NSAIDs to control the inflammation.

Despite all the medical treatments, Shlecter touts a positive attitude as the most effective weapon against arthritis pain. She began volunteering with her local Arthritis Foundation chapter in 1984, and read every piece of material she could find on RA.

Now she tries to avoid certain activities that might cause pain or injury to badly affected joints. “I don’t let anybody shake my hands. They have not stopped hurting in 35 years, and they’re disfigured. I can only type on the computer with one finger,” she says with a laugh. “I can’t open jars or a water bottle, even with the help of an opener. I can’t open anything.”

But Shlecter refuses to let pain keep her from enjoying life. “My rheumatologist calls me a denier. I choose to ignore the pain! I do what I can,” she says. “Everybody has their own level of tolerance.”

Despite the effects of her RA, she sticks to regular physical activity, including walking and exercising in the pool and Jacuzzi.  She credits Southern California’s warm weather with making it easier to stay active, but there’s another motivating factor. Her window overlooks the rehab center at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where she once stayed for surgeries and difficult recoveries. She says she doesn’t want to go back to that way of living.

“I have a cane and a walker in my closet – but I’m walking!” she jokes.

Self Management Tools

To boost your ability to deal with arthritis pain, these self-management strategies are key:

Take your meds. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs recommended by your doctor can help control inflammation and pain. If you have side effects that keep you from taking your medications, or if you have trouble affording their cost, speak to your doctor to explore other options.

Get regular, joint-safe physical activity. Activities like walking, working out on machines at your local gym, taking low-impact floor or water exercise classes, or doing yoga can help reduce joint pain and improve flexibility. Calorie-burning cardiovascular exercise can help control weight too.

Manage your weight. Excess weight can cause additional pressure to some weight-bearing joints and increase pain, and being overweight is bad for your overall health and energy levels.

Keep a positive attitude. Many people with chronic arthritis pain cite a positive attitude with boosting their ability to cope with pain. Don’t give in to pain. Find ways to fight it instead. Do things you love to do to keep your spirits high.