Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Your Ability to Walk? 9 Limitations

Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2022
rheumatoid arthritis functional limitations
Rheumatoid arthritis can impair your walking ability and result in the following nine types of functional limitations.

Advanced rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can impair your walking ability and cause difficulties in your day-to-day activities. It is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the healthy joints and surrounding tissue, causing them to swell.

Over time, RA can restrict your movements due to:

9 limitations with rheumatoid arthritis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine types of functional limitations are faced by people with any arthritis, which include:

  1. Grasp over small objects
  2. Reach above one’s head
  3. Sit in one position for about two hours
  4. Lift or carry as much as 10 lbs
  5. Climb a flight of stairs without resting
  6. Push or pull a heavy object
  7. Walk a one-fourth mile
  8. Stand for about two hours
  9. Stoop, bend, or kneel

People with rheumatoid arthritis may report difficulty performing any of the above duties or may find it impossible to perform these tasks.

Does RA qualify for disability?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that restricts one or more major day-to-day activities. A physician must certify the extent of your disability after due examination. Because rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can result in physical impairment or cause extreme difficulty standing, sitting, or walking, RA can be considered a disability in advanced stages.

To qualify for disability under Social Security Disability Insurance, you must have either:

  • Complete loss of function of a body part, such as the arms or legs, lasting for at least three months (loss of function applies to not only paralysis but also any other normal function such as sensation or loss of function of the autonomic nervous system that affects bladder or intestinal function), OR
  • Extreme difficulty standing up from a seated position, balancing while standing or walking or using the arms or hands, OR
  • Marked physical problems along with a limitation in thinking, social interactions, concentrating on and finishing tasks, regulating emotions, and controlling behavior (marked means worse than moderate but not extreme), OR
  • Inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that has lasted or can be expected to last for 12 months.


What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)? Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis See Slideshow

How can a person with rheumatoid arthritis overcome their disability and succeed in life?

It is of utmost importance to take care of yourself. Do not be disheartened and put yourself above your disease. Take your medicine as directed and never skip your dose. Always follow your physician’s instructions regarding the disease and drug.


Exercise is the last thing that a person with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may want to do; however, it is important to stay active for as much as possible.

Some recommended exercises for people with RA include:

  1. Stretching
  2. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, riding a bike, and swimming
  3. Strengthening exercises using resistance bands and lightweights
  4. Slow, gentle, flowing exercises such as Pilates, tai chi, and yoga

You may take the help of a physiotherapist to motivate and help you with passive stretches if the pain is too severe.


Consuming foods that fight inflammation by curbing chemicals responsible for its production, which include:

  • Fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines
  • Whole grains such as oatmeal and brown rice
  • Fruits and vegetables

Plan your daily tasks

It is important to plan your tasks because doing so helps save your energy and stay organized. Do not spend more time doing a single task. For example, if you have a huge pile of laundry, divide your task to save energy and get the task done.

Never exhaust yourself doing a single task. Use assistive tools to make your task simpler.

Lower your stress levels in the following ways:

  • Always seek your doctor’s or nurse’s support. They can suggest counseling or other unique ways of dealing with the disease.
  • Do not exhaust yourself. Take breaks in between and take time for rest during the day. Taking adequate rest is an important part of self-care in RA.
  • Relax and stay calm rather than fretting over things that are not under your control. Breathing exercises can go a long way. Special techniques such as Yoga and meditation may help you relax.
  • Never hesitate to ask for support from friends, family, and coworkers.
  • Look out for classes or support groups that provide arthritis programs in your area. You can connect with other people with RA through online platforms or social media.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2022
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