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.

Coping with Writer’s Block

Image courtesy of authorlorilotto.wordpress.com

For months I found myself not even being able to look at my blog, or visualize writing at all.  I started to wonder if I still had it in me.  Knowing that I’ve persevered through Rheumatoid Arthritis, I figured, why not apply some of those techniques I learned from coping with the disease to my inability to write?  This is what I came up with:

First:  Research

Reading on the internet is one of my favorite things.  It’s easy to jump from one article to another, everything from asparagus and hangovers to Parkinson’s cures.  Please type in asparagus and hangovers and you’ll find your next go-to after-party treat…pickled asparagus are the easiest to keep in your cupboard btw!  I even love to read those trashy news articles about what stars are wearing, what they’re doing and all the comments that follow.  Why we call it news, I have no idea.  I read forums, blogs, and whatever else strikes my fancy.  I don’t have any real approach to my reading.  I’ll start at one article…like perhaps I have neck pain, and that will lead to something else and then something else, and yet something else again, and suddenly I’m on who dumped who and the worst dressed or some crazy bacterium that’s taking over the nation.  How did I get here?  That’s what a road block is all about, figuring out how to get out of that sticky muck.  Research was the only source that I could think of that would pull me out.   I couldn’t write, not for the life of me.  So I took a road trip, and began my research on “Writer’s block,” and found myself writing again.  Do you remember “clusters”?  Well I did it.  Remember all those writing tools we learned when we were kids?  Those tools got me started yet again.  Wikipedia, you are the best!

I realized, I hadn’t done this in a while, this wordpress thing.  I grabbed a piece of paper, I wrote down “Block” and just like you learned to do in school too many years ago to mention, I engaged in “clustering”.  First circle, “Block”-stone-brick-wall-lego–Writer’s Brain Fart-In the Fog-Stumbling Block.  Then I realized Stumbling Block was good, while Writer’s Block was bad.  That’s a strange one isn’t it?

Then I figured, enough of that…it’s time for free writing.  And here I am, writing whatever comes to mind.  So far, it’s quite scary…but maybe that’s because so much has changed in my life lately.  Maybe I didn’t want to reveal too much of myself.  Maybe I was afraid of not what the reader would discover but what I would discover.

I have been going through some really tough times.  Quite honestly, I did take to journaling before I took to blogging these last few weeks.  I didn’t do much of it, but in the wee hours of the night, when there was no one to call and cry to or ask ponderous questions, I wrote.  And when the next night would come and I’d find myself destroyed with sadness, every cell of my being completely swollen in emotional pain, I would read what I wrote the night before and then write again.  I would find, over and over again in this process that I lived, despite the pain and could move forward, in the smallest increments as each day passed.

I’m still in emotional pain and perhaps sometime I will let you know more about it….  but for now, just talking about that pain is all that I can do.  I know my pain isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and so I have looked to it a little differently than I did before, before it takes over.  Perhaps having RA has given me the tools of coping with pain and NOT expecting it to go away anytime soon.  Rather, learning new ways of coping is the best that you can do.

So what’s up next?  Well hopefully I’m going to be writing to you about what’s going on in my life.  A friend of mine just the other day told me the article I posted wasn’t good.  It was sugar coated, it was 2 buck chuck, it was muck. I was holding back.  I was afraid to reveal again the real me.  It’s like getting into an accident and fearing the road or the building, or whatever it was that was keeping you from putting one step in front of the other.  There is a lot going on with me, and no need to sugar coat things.  I hope in the days that follow that you get to know me again, but in a different way, in a way that I am learning to get to know myself.  One day at a time.

In Case You Think I’ve fallen Off the Face of the Earth……..

artwork by Shel Silverstein

I’m back!

Hi everyone!  For those of you who have followed this blog, you may have noticed that I abandoned writing for an unusual length of time.   What you don’t know is a company that didn’t appreciate one of my articles was trying to sue me.   I had received stacks and stacks of paperwork and I read every sentence.  I was never actually sued, just threatened.  They even threatened to put me in jail.  Who knew, a young rheumatoid arthritis sufferer could get so much attention?  Handcuffs could really hurt.  ;P  I don’t believe even for a second that they had a case but just for the record, anyone can be sued for anything at any time.  Guilt seems like an unnecessary ingredient in the court room these days.  It didn’t matter that I was sharing an experience, and that freedom of speech is a right. What mattered was that I grew tired of dealing with it, and in turn, they had shut me up.  They had accomplished taking away my voice.  Because of this, I left the blog world for a long while.  I even stopped writing entirely.  I didn’t even notice when I hadn’t renewed my internet hosting account.  I was sort of turned off.  Even journal-ling felt like a chore.  I turned my focus on other things, other things that were also going on in my life and taking up all of my time.  But because I stepped out of the habit of writing for so long, when I sat in front of the computer, I was stumped.  How was I able to come up with words?  You know, those letters that are grouped together and with some effort, turned into an entire sentence and then a paragraph that then becomes an entire article?  Even the very first word seemed difficult.  Hello.  Hi.  Uh…..    This time, more determined than ever and knowing that the writer in me still lives, I decided to return to some of my old habits, otherwise that very first article would never appear.  I did in fact post an article but a friend of mine let me know that it sounded like I just wanted to hear myself think….  It was the equivalent of ordering 2buck chuck for guests that are expecting fine wine.  In the right circumstance this is great, but as my first post, it needed to sound like me, not a watered down, just going to write a bunch of mucky junk and call it a post.  No, that wasn’t going to get swallowed easily.  It needed to sound like me, the old me, the me that had an opinion and was fallible and was always searching for something more.  Just an fyi, if you do like wine, I’m all about the organic red Green Fin from Trader Joe’s.  Incredibly affordable!  Oops, that’s a secret because they’re always running out.  Leave me some!  My point is, my voice was still being suppressed because I had buried it so very deep.  I am proud to say I think I’m finding my voice all over again.  I think my writing is certainly rusty and grammatical errors are bound to appear, but I want to say thank you all for your support and thank you dear friend for giving me that critique. It was the permission I needed to bear my soul.   Ahh, I like the sound of that!

Can You Trust Your Doctor?

In my case, I don’t think so, but I’m hoping in your case that you CAN trust your doctor.

For those of you that have been following my blog posts, I have been out of insurance (but now have it) for the past three years.  Losing my insurance, because my husband lost his teaching job and we could not afford Cobra, was a blessing to a certain extent because it forced me to try alternative methods, and I found some excellent ones, including my two favorite, Low Dose Naltrexone and Serracor-NK.  Raising my Vitamin D levels and B12 have also been some excellent choices of mine along with other great choices like fish oil, etc., all improving my quality of life.  RA is very hard to control.  Just talk to anyone who’s on the conventional meds and you will find that many still haven’t found the right cocktail, and most are still experiencing joint damage despite taking DMARD’s.   I’m certainly not against drugs, but I will say that taking alternatives has opened my eyes to the possibility of healing my body rather than just suppressing the disease.  So now that I have insurance, it means for me, going back to the doctor, not to see what my choices are, but to get blood work done, x-rays and let the doctor know what choices I’m in favor of.

I hadn’t seen my favorite nurse in several years.  She gave me a giant hug.  “Wow, you look great!” she said.  She asked me what I was taking for my RA.  I told her supplements, but that I wasn’t on any drugs except for the occasional prednisone.  She said, “Wow, it’s really working, you look fantastic!”

Unfortunately, my Rheumatologist experience was definitely a poor one.  Before this Rheumatologist, I had researched and found a much older gentleman who became my Rheumatologist for approx one year.  He was open-minded, not against antibiotic therapy, not against supplements or icing my arm which proved to be the most beneficial in reducing the inflammation in my left forearm in particular, and he had enough experience and knowledge that I felt I had found a good doctor.  When I saw him for the first time, he ordered one x-ray of one hand.

After one year however, he retired.  He told me he found an excellent replacement, a young woman graduating from UCLA.  I was disappointed that I would no longer have my old doctor, but I was open to having a new doctor, especially a woman.  When I met her, she seemed nice enough.  She was young and beautiful and very friendly.  She sent me to x-rays and for blood work.  When the radiologist told me I had 30 x-rays to get done, I thought, “Really?”  At that time, I was not as forthright with my care.  I didn’t put my foot down and say, “that’s way too many.”  Instead, I let the x-rays happen, including one to my throat (which I have hypothyroidism and that’s never a good idea) and including one to my pelvis, (I am of child-bearing age and that’s never a good idea either).  And then I lost my insurance and I got a bill of $700 for all my x-rays.  I fought the bill for over 6 months, and eventually the insurance took care of it.  I was unhappy with the doctor because you should never expose yourself to that much radiation.  X-rays are cumulative, and even though there’s no clear evidence of how much is too much, I’m on a healing path, not a path of increasing the toxins in my body.   And having had a doctor, a great doctor, who only ordered one x-ray, and one later on to compare, I knew that 30 x-rays were approximately 29 too many.

What I find interesting, is that when you look for information on the internet, it’s always, “Well you’re exposed to radiation all the time from natural sources.”  But what makes this ok?  Why would you then want to increase your exposure?  Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?  It’s easy for doctor’s to poo poo the fear of two many x-rays, while billing your insurance, putting money in their pocket, but let me just say this, a close relative of mine who is a radiologist, was quite upset to hear that I was exposed to 30 x-rays before and thought my doctor was a quack and just trying to pay off her college loans.  He chooses not to get x-rays whenever they aren’t absolutely necessary.

I hadn’t seen my new Rheumatologist in almost 3 years and I was convinced that she had probably learned a thing or two since I had last seen her.  Or maybe she would at least know not to give ME so many x-rays.  I was open to the possibility that I just needed to give her a second chance.  Maybe before, she just didn’t know.  She was surprised how flexible I was and how little inflammation and deformity I appeared to have.  So there you have it, my supplement regimentation is working to a certain extent.

At the end of the apt., she asked if I was open to getting my hand x-rayed.  “Sure”, I said, “but please I don’t want any x-rays of my thyroid or ovaries because that can be very harmful.”  She didn’t say anything, so I wondered if she knew what I was referring to and sent me down for blood work and x-rays.

When I saw the technician, he said, “Ok, 18 x-rays today.”  I said, “What?  How can that be?”  And he explained that there were several of each hand, several of each feet, etc.  At first I thought, “well ok, it’s just the hands and feet.”  But thinking back to how many my previous Rheumatologist exposed me to, (totaling two) and considering just 3 years ago, this doctor had exposed me to 30, I told the technician I’d pass.

I walked back to my Rheumatologist office and handed the paper ordering the x-rays to the nurse and said, “Tell her this is simply too many” and left.

I just figured it was time for me to find a new Rheumatologist.  And so my quest begins….

Help Pharmaceutical companies learn about you!

Whether you’re taking pharmaceutical drugs, or alternative medications, be part of a survey so they can get a better idea of what people need.

Centocor Ortho Biotech and UCB Pharmaceuticals is looking into researching two specific demographics of RA sufferers. The first group is for people who are using IV therapy and the second group is for people who are not using IV / injection treatment and are not using biologic meds.  Take this quick and easy survey if you’d like to be part of research.  It will only take a few minutes, I promise!  ((CLICK HERE))

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.

Alternative Options for Multiple Sclerosis

Having an autoimmune disease, or in my case, a few, has increased my interest in learning about other diseases, as well as other treatments.  Of course, I think I have always had an interest in medical literature.
And since I’m on an alternative path of treatments, my interest definitely sways into the natural and homeopathic, even though I am certainly not against conventional medications.   I have no idea where this interest came from, but it has always been there, along with many other interests in my life.  And Mom, please stop telling me I should have been a doctor…I’m an artist, first and foremost!  I didn’t become interested in learning about multiple sclerosis until I had Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Before this, my uncle developed Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and later, after I developed RA, my father developed Parkinson’s.  Though my uncle is not related by blood, this still added to my growing interest of wanting to put a halt to all the disease in my life.  Perhaps if I could learn about these diseases, I could also come up with theories on how to improve the lives of those that had them?  And why did it seem like diseases were on an upswing?  My quest for answers continues, so I hope you can share in my journey to help the lives of others.

I was on Daily Strength one day when someone with both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis wrote in on one of the posts.  They mentioned how Low Dose Naltrexone had changed their life.  At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to it and later couldn’t find the member.  But months later I had remembered Low Dose Naltrexone and started researching.

Upon research I found communities who knew a lot about Low Dose Naltrexone, and also people who knew how to be terrific supporters.  I gained friends, many who had MS and as a result became more interested in learning about Multiple Sclerosis.  I also hoped to simply learn more about neurological diseases.  My dad, new to Parkinson’s wasn’t as keen as I was in alternative medications at first, but soon I coaxed him into trying LDN.  I don’t think he thought it was doing much until months later when he ran out and realized he noticed a substantial difference.  I also have him taking higher doses of Coenzyme Q10 which has been shown to slow down the progression of both PD and ALS.

Multiple Sclerosis has been particularly interesting to me because the treatments for MS are currently inadequate.  Ask anyone with MS and you’ll hear the same thing.  That’s part of the reason why so many people with MS discovered Low Dose Naltrexone.  You can say the same for Pulmonary Fibrosis and many other diseases where people are given steroids, antibiotics, and other medications hoping to change the course of the disease and yet the disease for the most part, continues to progress without much change.  Pulmonary Fibrosis is a disease that can also be treated with Serracor-NK and Serra-RX because it reduces scar tissue.  Scar tissue can cause many health problems and diseases which is why reducing this scar tissue and fibrin which causes it, using Serrapeptase can be so helpful.

  What is MS?  Watch this video to learn more.

Recently, I’ve been thrilled to see that Serracor-NK is a recommended alternative treatment for Multiple Sclerosis.  It’s also compatible with most drugs, so another great solution if you have MS and are on CRAB drugs, antibiotics, or steroids.  Because I take Serracor-NK and know how well it works for me, I imagine that it would also work well for MS.  There are lots of theories out there that MS and RA are actualy closely related.  Whatever the case, any treatment that works for MS is a miracle.

   Watch an MS relapse to better understand this disease.

In MS, the myelin protective sheath that covers the nerve cells is broken down by immune complexes that are embedded in it. Serracor-NK,Serrra RX80 and other proteolytic enzymes break down the destructive immune complexes and can dramatically reduce MS symptoms. While regeneration of damaged tissue is not possible, regular supplementation with enzymes has been documented to halt the progress of degeneration associated with most stages of MS.”-biomediclabs.

  Reversing MS, is it possible?  Research shows new hope!

Hopefully soon we will find real solutions for our medical issues.  Until that day comes, I hope that you will join in the research, theories and recommendations that myself and many other people provide.  I will always mention, I am no doctor and this is all solely my opinion, but I do hope that this site helps you!  Hugs and thanks, -Sarah

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