Last Updated on November 12, 2023 by Otuebo Harrison
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. It can affect people of all ages and can be debilitating, making it difficult to perform daily activities. However, there are exercises and lifestyle changes that can help manage the pain and improve joint flexibility, making it easier to move around and enjoy life. In this article, we’ll go over seven essential exercises and lifestyle changes that can help manage rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Range-of-motion exercises are important for maintaining joint flexibility and reducing stiffness. These exercises involve moving the joint as far as it can go without causing pain. You can do these exercises while sitting or lying down. For example, shoulder rolls can help loosen up the shoulder joint, wrist circles can help reduce stiffness in the wrist, and ankle pumps can help improve range of motion in the ankle.
Strength training help to build up the muscles around the affected joint, which can help to support the joint and reduce pain. You can use resistance bands or light weights for these exercises. Examples include bicep curls, tricep extensions, and leg lifts. Strength training should be done with caution and under the guidance of a physical therapist or qualified fitness professional, as doing them incorrectly can exacerbate pain and cause further damage to the joints.
Cardiovascular exercise is important for overall health and can also help manage RA pain. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling can be helpful. These exercises can also improve heart health and increase energy levels. It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercise, and to stop if you experience pain or discomfort.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise that can help to reduce stress and tension in the body. It can also help to improve joint flexibility and reduce pain. Certain yoga poses like the downward dog and the warrior pose can be helpful for people with RA. It’s important to talk to your doctor or physical therapist before starting a yoga practice to ensure that it’s safe for you. You may need to modify certain poses or avoid certain positions altogether, depending on the severity of your RA.
Tai chi is another low-impact exercise that can help improve balance, strength, and flexibility. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate RA symptoms. Tai chi involves slow, gentle movements and is generally considered safe for people with RA. It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercise, and to stop if you experience pain or discomfort.
Exercising in water can be helpful for people with RA, as it reduces the impact on the joints. Aquatic exercise can also help to improve joint mobility and muscle strength. Examples include water walking, water aerobics, and swimming. It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercise, and to stop if you experience pain or discomfort.
Stretching is an important part of any workout routine, as it helps to improve flexibility and reduce stiffness. You can do simple stretching exercises like neck stretches, shoulder rolls, and hamstring stretches. It’s important to avoid stretching to the point of pain, and to hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds.
Lifestyle Changes To Manage Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
In addition to exercise, there are lifestyle changes that can help manage RA pain. These include:
Eating a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can help manage RA symptoms by reducing inflammation in the body. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help to reduce inflammation and improve overall health. It’s also important to avoid processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats, as these can increase inflammation in the body.
Getting Enough Rest
Rest is important for people with RA, as it allows the body to heal and reduces stress on the joints. It’s important to get enough sleep each night and to take breaks throughout the day if you feel tired or sore.
Stress can exacerbate RA symptoms, so it’s important to find ways to manage stress. This can include deep breathing, meditation, or engaging in relaxing activities like reading or listening to music.
Using Assistive Devices
Assistive devices like braces, canes, or splints can help to support the joints and reduce pain. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend the right type of device for your specific needs.
Staying active is important for overall health and can also help to manage RA symptoms. Even simple activities like walking or doing housework can be beneficial. It’s important to listen to your body and rest when needed, but also to stay active to maintain joint mobility and muscle strength.
How to Adjust to Your Condition
Adjusting to life with rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging, but with the right strategies and support, it’s possible to maintain a fulfilling life. Here are some tips for adjusting to your condition:
Learning about your condition and how it affects your body can help you better understand your symptoms and manage them more effectively. Talk to your doctor, read up on the latest research, and join a support group to connect with others who are going through the same thing.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting goals can help you stay motivated and focused, but it’s important to set goals that are realistic for your current abilities. For example, if you used to run marathons, it might not be realistic to expect yourself to run a marathon now that you have RA. Instead, focus on setting achievable goals like taking a daily walk or doing some gentle stretching exercises.
Modifying your daily routine can help you conserve energy and reduce stress on your joints. For example, you might use a shower chair or bath bench to reduce the strain on your knees and hips, or you might use a long-handled grabber to reach items that are out of reach without having to bend down.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This might mean asking a family member or friend to help with household chores or errands, or it might mean asking your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist who can help you develop an exercise plan that’s safe and effective for your condition.
Focus on Self-Care
Self-care is essential for managing RA symptoms and maintaining your overall health and well-being. This might include getting enough sleep each night, eating a healthy diet, taking breaks throughout the day to rest, and engaging in activities that you enjoy.
By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can adjust to life with rheumatoid arthritis and continue to lead a fulfilling life. Remember to be patient with yourself and to seek support and guidance when you need it.
In conclusion, managing rheumatoid arthritis pain requires a comprehensive approach that includes both exercise and lifestyle changes. These seven essential exercises and lifestyle changes can help manage RA symptoms and improve overall health. It’s important to work with your doctor or physical therapist to develop an exercise routine that’s safe and effective for your specific needs.