Exercise Tips for Alleviating Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

image courtesy of WebMD

Post Contributor::  Valerie Johnston :: Healthline.com health and fitness writer

While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are several things that you can do to reduce joint pain, joint stiffness, and other symptoms of the disease. A well-rounded, healthy diet; relaxation techniques for reducing stress; and achieving improved sleep are a few lifestyle changes that you can work toward in order to manage your symptoms.

Exercise should also be a key component of your long-term treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis. Regular exercise will increase your range of motion, increase joint protection, reduce joint stiffness and pain, improve muscle strength, and boost endurance.

Getting Started with Exercise

If you are not accustomed to regular exercise, it is important to discuss your exercise plan with your doctor. Begin with exercises that you can comfortably perform, such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. Only increase the intensity of your workouts after you have built a solid foundation (increased endurance, strength, etc.). A fitness trainer or a physical therapist can provide guidance so that you know how to perform exercises safely and in a way that is suited to your current fitness level.

Before any exercise, it is important to warm up and to stretch the muscles. This will help you to avoid injuries and to comfortably perform a wide variety of range-of-motion exercises. If you experience pain or inflammation during or after exercise, be sure to give your body adequate time to recover. Pain is common during and after exercise, but it should not be excessive. Of course, joint pain comes with the territory if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Using a cold pack on sore joints and muscles after a workout can help quite a bit with pain management. By progressing slowly over time, you can avoid injuries and will be more likely to make a habit out of exercise.

Exercise Techniques for Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis

Tai Chi

There are specific exercise techniques that can help in reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. For example, tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that has helped countless people with arthritis to increase their mobility, sense of relaxation, and overall quality of life. Tai chi incorporates many of the essential management tools—stress reduction, physical activity, mental focus, controlled breathing, etc.—that you can use to manage your condition.

Low-Impact Exercises

Low-impact aerobic exercise is one of the best forms of physical activity for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Swimming, cycling, resistance training, yoga, Pilates, elliptical training, and walking are all examples of low-impact aerobic exercises that will not cause stress to your joints. High-impact exercises such as running, tennis, and plyometrics add a lot of stress to the joints and bones of the body, which can be especially problematic for people with arthritis.

Resistance training has grown in popularity among people of all fitness levels. Free weights, elastic bands, and resistance machines are a few types of resistance exercise tools that are, in general, safe for people with rheumatoid arthritis to use. The degree of resistance can be adjusted according to your current level of fitness and strength.

Swimming is an excellent way for people with rheumatoid arthritis to exercise. Water supports your body during movement so that the stress on your joints is minimized. If you enjoy walking, try walking exercises in a pool. A swimming instructor can show you how to perform various swimming techniques that will help you to increase muscle strength and mobility throughout your body.

Consistency by Customizing Your Workouts

Discovering physical activities that you enjoy will help you to maintain your exercise routine long-term. If you already enjoy going for walks, for example, make it a habit to get out for a walk every day. If you enjoy variety, design an exercise plan that includes walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, and other fitness techniques. Finding your exercise niche will help you to manage your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms more effectively.

Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer for Healthline.com, keeping up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.  With ambitions of one day running a marathon, she resides in East Texas.

The Sting of Good Intentions

As with any disease, RA can be frustrating. A general work day for me consists of sitting at my desk. The consequences of this for RA means stiffness, ankle swelling, feet swelling, hip pain, etc. etc. The more you sit still, often it makes the stiffness and pain of RA an even bigger problem.

On the flip-side, exercising can be tricky. RA has fun traveling around the body, making parts swell unexpectedly. Everything from severe sharp pains, to a dull ache, to something in between can be a regular day for anyone with RA. But because it varies from person to person, from day to day and from minute to minute, there’s just no telling. Complaining isn’t something I normally do because at least I wasn’t affected with RA until I was 30. The reality is, RA can affect babies, and the result of that can even lead to blindness….but that’s a whole other topic. Sorry to be a downer but reality bites, and to not know that RA can affect children isn’t right. Knowledge is power, because with knowledge, at least then, we can work on solutions. But anyway, back to my story.

So my intention today was simply to get some exercise. It is my daily goal to exercise, even though I might not fulfill it. I took my normal long walk on a beautiful late sunny afternoon down a gorgeous street where homes leave me feeling breathless.  I like to daydream that one day I’ll be living in a beautiful house rather than my one bedroom apartment. My right foot was bothering me again as it has these past couple of days. Rather than babying it, which could lead to more stiffness or better recovery, it’s too hard to say, I decided walking was the answer. My body needed circulation, I needed the sunshine and the breeze, along with the spiritual feeling that I get on these types of walks. Only today I was limping. Limping I did, trying to take the pressure off my right foot, but flexing nonetheless, hoping this could help the stiffness and ease the swelling. I pushed through, even though over time it got worse. My walk is about four miles I’m guessing, but I really don’t know. I hit my two mile spot and turned around. I was catching up on my Sunday calls when suddenly I felt a sharp sting on my left foot.

Thinking it was nothing but a shrub or stick briefly poking me, I think I ignored it for half a second, concentrating on conversation. But when the piercing sting kept on, I heard myself say out loud, “Ow! OW! OW!” I looked down and saw a yellow hornet furiously stinging my left ankle. I brushed it off with a heavy hand, since that’s what it took to get it off of me.

“Dang it,” I said. “A hornet just bit me!”

My friend asked, “Are you ok?”

I said, “yes but I’ve never been bitten by one. Hopefully my reaction to it will be fine.”

“Do you need to call someone?” she asked.

I said, “No, there’s no one I can call.”

She said, “Well I hope you aren’t too far from home.”

I said, “Oh a ways, but hopefully I’ll be fine.”

We continued on our conversation and I ignored the throbbing sting. I was somewhat surprised at how easy it was to ignore the constant stinging where the hornet had stung me over and over. I would have preferred it sting my right foot, that way I could limp more easily. Now both feet hurt to walk. I took off my left shoe because the stings were right at the edge of my shoe and it was rubbing. Then I sort of hobbled home, putting more pressure on my left foot than right because my right foot was killing me and stepping on my left wasn’t making the stinging pain better or worse.

When I got to my apartment complex, I had a long talk with a neighbor who’s suffering from psoriatic arthritis. She’s had psoriatic arthritis for less than a year but she has two fingers that are permanently disfigured due to inflammation shortening the tendons. She asked about my foot, since I was carrying my shoe. I told her the story and said I wished it had been the other foot, but that I was fine.  Her fingers gave me another good reality check, that my situation wasn’t all that bad, even though honestly, I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, just annoyed that my right foot was hurting more than the hornet sting.

That evening, I tried to relax over dinner and tv. My husband was coming home from a friend’s house. The surprise was that the hornet stings barely bugged me. (Pun intentional) Sure it hurt and wasn’t fun, but compared to RA, it was nothing. So I just wanted to say that if you’ve ever wondered what hurst more, a sting from a f lying insect or RA, my vote is RA. I’ll take a sting any day, or every day if RA would just go away.

How to Reduce Inflammation FAST… On a Budget!

I’ve had a lot of experience with this. If you’re flare is really severe, it can take time. And for some people, making these changes simply won’t do all that much if your disease isn’t being suppressed or changed by either medications or alternative treatments. BUT, in general, these switches will help, or at least I think they will! Good luck!

1. Switch from butter or margarine to OLIVE OIL.

2. Stop drinking milk and start drinking ALMOND MILK (unsweetened). Trader Joe’s carries it if you can’t find it elsewhere. Sugar is inflammatory so please don’t buy the sweetened version. And yes, honey IS sugar.

3. Start eating ORGANIC CELERY. Celery is known to reduce inflammation. It is also known to carry lots of pesticides if it isn’t organic.

4. STOP eating BREADS, PASTAS,RICE, WHITE POTATOES and CHIPS. You CAN eat Sweet Potatoes and Yucca. They are both Anti-inflammatory.

5. Stick with foods that are all natural. Buy the book, “The Inflammation Free Diet Plan” used at Amazon to understand more about inflammation and how much each food either decreases or increases inflammation. (Everything is in a point system).

6. Take COD LIVER OIL. It is one of the most anti-inflammatory fish oils to choose from AND it contains Vitamin A and Vitamin D. So it’s more bang for your buck! It can increase liver enzymes however, so don’t over due it and pay attention closely to your ALT levels. Once the flare is over, you may want to make the switch to something else, however, at this point I don’t have any great suggestions since most oils will increase your chance of higher ALT levels. Borage oil is pretty great as long as you choose one that is free of alkaloids. Just call the company and ask since most are unclear if they are PA free.

7. Get some light EXERCISE even though it hurts. Exercise will reduce the inflammation. Increase your exercise on days you feel better.

8. DON’T EAT SUGAR OR CHOCOLATE! If you need something sweet, buy bio-active Whey Powder and use Almond Milk. It’s sweet with a natural vanilla flavor. The almond milk will reduce your inflammation and the whey powder will reduce your tnf protein, thus reducing inflammation.

9. Get extra sleep! ZZZZZZZZZZ

10. EAT GASSY VEGETABLES. You heard me! Onions, Brussels sprouts, Asparagus, garlic, chard and cabbage are great sources. Gassy means it contains Sulfur and sulfur decreases inflammation. You’ve heard of Sulfasalazine and MSM right? Both contain sulfur, reducing inflammation.

11. If you don’t suffer from gastric reflux or ulcers, use CAYENNE PEPPER. I love to put it in my coffee. It’s a great anti-inflammatory and also helps, believe it or not, to make you feel calm.

12. If God gives you Lemons, you make lemonade, right? Well, if God gives you RA, you make LEMON WATER. Lemons reduce inflammation and they also help rid your body of toxins.

13. If you’re broke but need supplements, choose SWANSON. I did my best to research the company. From what I can tell, they are not ISO certified, however I had a hard time finding any company that was. I do not have experience with Swanson until my recent purchase (today-so I can’t tell you how the quality is), but I can tell you it was CHEAP, if nothing else!

14. Get some SUN if you don’t suffer from Lupus. Nothing compares to the real thing, even though supplements help and btw, you also get Vitamin K which helps suppress your appetite!

15. Speaking of appetite, just losing some weight and LOWERING YOUR CHOLESTEROL will reduce your inflammation. Cholesterol reducing medications have been shown to reduce inflammation in people with Arthritis. So be mindful of what you eat and know that lowering your cholesterol will do so much more than make you look great at your next doctor’s visit!

16. ACE BANDAGES can help push the swelling out and brace your joint for more comfort. And when you take it off, it forces the blood to rush back in, helping with circulation.

17. ICE PACKS in combination with heat, or even Ice packs on their own, depending on where the inflammation is can do wonders. I was able to reduce inflammation considerably by using an ice pack daily on a tendon due to RA.

18. Buy some airborn or the cheaper equivalent. Most drugstores carry their own version and it’s the same exact product. Airborn contains anti-inflammatories like vitamin C, zinc, ginger, etc. Take a few a day for a week and you’re flare should be easing up on you!

My first journal entry on Daily Strength: Aug 8, 2007

To those of you who wake up every morning in pain, or sit for a few minutes and have trouble getting up……or feel weak, tired…. depressed…….. or have people who don’t really understand……… to those of you who keep trying everything you can to get rid of your flare, hoping to just get back to your normal self……….. and to those of you who are saddened that you can’t do the things you use to do……..like pick up a child, or open up that bottle of water, or take off your bra. Yes, there are days I can, but plenty of days that I can’t. And to those of you that read online things like, “arthritis is possibly caused by poor diets, lack of exercise, unhealthy lifestyle…etc.” and get frustrated because you exercise everyday, eat healthfully and always have, etc…………………

I can relate………and, I want to hear from you!!!

I’m certainly not going to loose hope that I can’t get back a semi normal lifestyle. Plus, with medical advancements, you just never know.

But for now, I continue on my journey wanting to hear from all of you……..in our quest to improve the life we have and to share with each-other R.A. which I truly believe no one understands until you have it.

For instance, I love to exercise and I always have. When I exercise I do feel better. But during a time when I’m not having a flare……..I still can’t do….say… yoga. There are just simply things I can not do. I can’t bend my wrists like I use to……and I’ve lost a lot of strength. When I’m not in a full blown flare, I excersize as much as possible while I can. When I am going through a flare (which I am now) and just so you know, I’ve been on prednisone for 8 months………and now I’m on methotrexate for the first time as well as still on the pred. I’m having of course nausea and hair loss. It sucks and I’m not sure I really want to be on this medicine. At first I thought I did, but I just don’t know anymore…….even though I don’t have any better ideas. But anyway, exercise baffles me. Because now that I’m flaring again hard core, I’m still going to the gym. When I get there it takes all of my effort to get myself moving. But once I start moving, it gets a bit better……and continues to improve slightly (never like it use to) but enough that I’m feeling more confident and happy. The moment I stop…..like literally take a step off the elliptical, I feel as though I’m right back to normal again, meaning pain and stiffness, and it takes all of me to get myself out of the gym and back in the car. Sometimes I have to pull on my legs to get them up on the elliptical.

How many of you have tripped on your way into the shower because it’s too hard to lift your legs? Or how about…..how many of you have worried about your driving skills now that it’s difficult to turn your head and the steering wheel? Any of this sound familiar?

On my last day to drink for a long time which was Sat when I went to this amazing wedding. I drank too much of course, champagne, etc. I exercised that day already so I could feel better in the evening. I took prednisone and plenty of pain killers. I know, I know, terrible on my liver. I didn’t start Methotrexate until last night which was on Doctor’s advice………he knew I’d be bingeing on sat. Anyway, my point: So there I was at the wedding, tipsy, dancing, and having a great time…..the most limber and energetic I had been in a while. And a woman I know who is a friend of mine and knows of my R.A………we were walking partners and with my last flare I had to stop the early mornings… Anyway she said, mockingly, “Your rheumatoid isn’t bothering you now is it?” and it felt so……….you know, like you must be faking this sort of thing.

O.k. now you heard me vent. Ahhhh, this is what a journal is all about.

Serracor-NK: Reverse the Disease Process

Supplements that can reverse the disease process

Supplements that can reverse the disease process

Serracor-NK is a supplement that you can buy on-line from www.biomediclabs.com . This blend has tremendously improved my Rheumatoid Arthritis. First I noticed not having stiffness at night. Then I noticed getting out of bed and not feeling pain when my feet hit the floor.

Disease activity is in direct correlation to inflammation. If you can decrease inflammation, then you have less disease activity which means less destruction on joints and organs. Side effects from this supplement were only beneficial. It reduces high cholesterol, improves circulatory health, induces viral cleansing and I never expected this one… hair thinning-gone! Expect to have the same amount of hair that you had as a teenager! (Of course, individual results may vary). Perhaps my hair loss was being caused from my body attacking itself. After all, Lupus causes hair loss and even though I was diagnosed with RA, I do get a lot of Lupus-like symptoms. I had thought my hair loss was simply hereditary. I’ve always had great hair but the amount of hair I’d loose in the shower still bothered me. Methotrexate caused me to loose even more but when I stopped Methotrexate I noticed that during a flare, I’d still loose more hair than normal. Now I lose almost no hair at all. It’s amazing! Serracor-NK works by removing excess Fibrin in the body. If your inflammation is not caused by excess Fibrin, then Serracor-NK probably won’t work for you.

“Recent research has shown that fibrin plays a key role in the inflammatory response and development of rheumatoid arthritis.-Wikipedia

For some people, experimenting with a supplement doesn’t sound like a good idea to them. I already felt that the medicines prescribed normally for Rheumatoid Arthritis are experimental, so trying supplements were a natural choice for me. A recent study in WebMD about Biologics shows that though they help with symptoms, they’re not the medical breakthrough doctors and patients were hoping for. Biologics like Enbrel are a very new choice of therapy. There are no guarantees. Although people feel safe taking a drug like Methotrexate because it has been around for a long time, I don’t find this any more consoling. Methotrexate is a drug that yes is widely prescribed by doctors but because it has been tested for so long, it is a fact and not a theory that taking this drug increases chances of cancer, digestive issues, Alzheimer’s and other disconcerting possibilities. It seems likely that at some point, you will suffer from some side effect. From my support group, Daily Strength, I commonly see people who have to temporarily stop taking Methotrexate because their liver enzymes were elevated. What this means is, their liver is getting damaged and they have to stop a medicine that is reducing pain, inflammation and joint damage, putting them behind with their therapy. I have been happily surprised that since starting Serracor-NK, I have not had to deal with a single flare. I feel healthy and can participate in most social events and activities without RA holding me back. Bottom Line: “The findings suggest that RA patients’ medical needs are not being totally met”WebMD

After having been on traditional medications for over a year and then switching over to Low Dose Naltrexone and Serracor-NK, I can honestly say that stiffness, inflammation and quality of life have greatly improved. I do believe that I’m getting increasingly better. This kind of feeling wasn’t happening on Methotrexate and Prednisone. I would go to the gym several times a week and find myself unable to work out as hard. I lost a considerable amount of muscle and since then have been able to improve my exercise routine. If you do decide to try Serracor-NK, make sure you don’t expect miracles right away. Just like immune suppressant drugs, these things take a while. I didn’t really feel a difference until the end of the second month and even then it was a small change. By the third month I was extremely impressed and the fourth month, I felt even better. Unfortunately, you do have to take a lot of pills. That’s the downside….and it sucks. But the alternative is even worse in my opinion. I would much rather take pills everyday, all day long than have to deal with the amount of suffering caused from taking a drug like Methotrexate. For some people, they never experience side effects. I did experience many side effects and I worried constantly about side effects from methotrexate years down the line.

At the height of my RA, I couldn’t even sit up from the couch without a helping hand. Now I can run, lift a full pot of coffee and wake up early in the morning with ease and without the worry of morning stiffness.

If you are looking to avoid the toxicity of chemotherapy drugs, the side effects of corticosteroids, and the expense and issues involved in Biologics, then you have come to the right site. There are so many options out there but coming up with a plan that tailors to your disease and your body can be difficult. Immune suppressive drugs work so well across the board because they don’t have to figure out the problem. They work by suppressing the immune system to a point that the body simply stops reacting. My theory however is that your immune system will eventually try to figure out a way to overcompensate by being suppressed. This is just my theory and I am in no way suggesting that you stop your DMARD. On the other hand, for some people who are looking to find an alternative, I think these are great solutions. What if they really do reverse the disease process? All I can say is, get back to me in 10 years and I’ll let you know. Hopefully I’ll have the answer we all hope for which is yes, you can reverse the disease process if you catch it in time.

Exercise for Parkinson’s

Michael J. Fox talks about Parkinsons

Michael J. Fox talks about Parkinson's

In My Father, My Brother, and Me, a FRONTLINE co-production with ITVS,(aired Feb. 3, 2009), Iverson sets off on a personal journey to understand the disease that has taken such a toll on his family. Along the way, he meets some remarkable people–a leading Parkinson’s researcher whose encounter with “frozen” heroin addicts led to a major breakthrough; a Parkinson’s sufferer given a new lease on life by an experimental brain surgery; and a geneticist who helped identify some of the gene mutations responsible for Parkinson’s and who is now working on drugs to fix them. -BA Haller

This is an exceptionally well made film. As the future unfolds, scientists discover more and more about Parkinson’s. One of the main points I got out of this production was the benefits of exercise. In doing a study with two different chimpanzees, one watching and the other forced to walk on a treadmill, the synthetic version of Parkinson’s was then injected into the chimps. The remarkable thing was, the chimp who was exercising had very minimal changes in his brain scan while the other who had only “watched” was greatly affected by Parkinson’s. Now researchers are trying to figure out why exercise has such a big impact on the brain and Parkinson’s and for those that already suffer from it, how exercise will affect them. Patients are put in harnesses and monitored while on the treadmill. Hopefully this new outlook will lead to big advancements in Parkinson’s research.

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you, but when you have an autoimmune disease, it’s that much more difficult to get the courage and willpower to force yourself to exercise. Pain, stiffness, tremor and immobility can get in the way. The irony here is, research after research shows the importance of exercise. It doesn’t matter if you have Parkinson’s, Fibromyalgia, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, you will have less symptoms if you exercise.

Now here’s where it gets tricky….. How does one exercise if they can’t move, or if they’re in too much pain to make it happen? Not only that, with all autoimmune diseases, over extending yourself will also put you back ten-fold. So how do you learn where to draw the line?

I think with autoimmune diseases, it’s important to take it slow and build yourself up gradually. If you already know that you can walk from point A to B, then make it a little longer. If you know you can lift yourself off the couch, then you know you could probably handle a few knee extensions and take it from there. As the phrase already states, “Use it or loose it!”

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