Should Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Exercise?

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rheumatoid arthritis exercise sneakers

Can we talk about exercise?

There is an elephant in the room. Not a cute and helpful one like Horton. It is one of those proverbial elephants no one wants to address. It’s a big and annoying issue that won’t go away, yet everyone tries to ignore.

I do not fancy myself an elephant tamer. However, I have a constant urge to state the unspoken. So, let’s get this out in the open.

Exercise is a touchy subject in the world of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Proponents of exercise strongly advocate it. No one I know actually opposes exercise, but it does raise several questions. I wonder why I do not hear them asked.

Early in 2006, when I began to suspect that I had RA, I began to read research articles about it. I was leery of internet Quackdom, so I limited myself to medical universities and hospitals like Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, and Johns Hopkins. Soon, my search expanded to other websites like Web MD and About.com. I looked for legitimate information, not fairy-world cures.

I read about protecting my joints by not doing things that caused increased pain or stress. That sounded very important to me, so I printed off lots of pages about it. Later, when I began to hear how some RA-ers are pressured to exercise, it struck me as odd. The two ideas are in direct conflict. I cannot protect my inflamed joints from use at the same time that I am using them to exercise.

I read every theory I could find to explain the causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I did not read any which pointed to laziness or lack of exercise as a reason for RA. To be blunt, but if sloth did not cause my RA, then workouts will not cure it.

My doctors have prescribed vitamins, chemo shots, funky Biologic drugs, rest, anti-inflammatory medicines and even a high Omega-3 diet to attempt to gain control of my RA symptoms. Funny, they have not prescribed exercise. Why not?

It would have been an appropriate prescription if I had come into the office with one of many other conditions. But, I was disabled by RA, not idleness. Some people are truly disabled by RA. And they cannot exercise for either fun or strength because of their functional status.

There are other people who have RA, but who are not disabled. Many people with RA have times between flares—however brief—when they can safely exercise. And a few others actually have only a few number of joints that are affected. Of course, they can exercise using the unaffected joints.

Because I always loved exercise, I don’t feel comfortable defending this position. But, frankly, I am never comfortable anymore. I am in pain. It’s not pleasant or popular to say so, but it’s true.

I am very uncomfortable to sound like I am opposing something as wonderful as exercise. I half expect to be stoned. But, of course—

I am not arguing with exercise

I am arguing with the preposterous proposition that if RA’ers would just exercise, they would feel better or get well. That is so absurd that I can’t think anyone really believes it. If they do, I am willing to walk in their shoes. Can they stand in mine?

I wish that people with RA would not have to ever defend themselves about exercise. We did not get Rheumatoid Arthritis because we were less active; we became less active because we have RA.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2009 at 8:34 pm and is filed under Other. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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