Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to mistake your joints for a foreign invader. It typically starts in the smaller joints, such as your hands and feet, but it can start anywhere in your body. As your immune system begins attacking your joints as if they were a foreign object, inflammation begins around the targeted area.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. I’ve personally had rheumatoid arthritis for several years and these are the reasons why I stay active as much as my condition allows me too.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but there are treatment options available to help slow the progression of the disease. You may experience flare-ups that cause your symptoms to spike for a period of time before returning to your new normal life. It is important that patients take their medication as prescribed to help keep the disease activity low or possibly put it into remission. However, stopping your medication entirely can cause the disease to progress rapidly and cause joint destruction. Also, if you are one of the lucky ones who do go into remission, stopping your treatment can cause the disease to come back.
What are the Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Many people mistake osteoarthritis with rheumatoid, but they are two separate ailments. Osteoarthritis tends to affect older folks or those who suffered a major injury to a specific joint. But RA symptoms vary from mild to severe. It is important to seek treatment if your symptoms change drastically. Here is a list of common symptoms.
- pain, swelling, and stiffness in more than one joint
- symmetrical joint involvement
- joint deformity
- unsteadiness when walking
- a general feeling of being unwell
- loss of function and mobility
- weight loss
While medication is great for managing symptoms, it is best to stay as active as possible. Not only does gentle exercise help keep your weight down but it is actually good to keep moving when you aren’t in severe pain. Even if you walk for five minutes several times a day, walking can make a difference when it comes to managing your symptoms. Let’s take a look at the benefits of walking with rheumatoid arthritis.
Walking is Easy the Joints
As I mentioned earlier, rheumatoid arthritis can be a very painful disease and walking is a great way to stay as active as possible. Walking is easy on the joints and most people who have RA can still walk short distances or use a cane/walker to make walking easier.
I highly suggest that if you haven’t exercised recently, ask your doctor to prescribe physical therapy to help improve your strength. Being sedentary causes muscle weakness and can make walking more difficult. It can also increase your fall risk.
As you get moving, start off slowly and work your way towards your goal. Walking even 5 minutes a day several times a day can make a huge difference when it comes to managing your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Keeps your Joints Moving
Carrie DeVries shares on Arthritis-Health, that movement helps nourish the joint and keep the muscles around the joint strong and limber. As you get older, it is not uncommon for the spongy material that protects your bones starts to dry out. Your joints also need ample amounts of synovial fluid to make moving easier. It is similar to the oil in a car engine, it is designed to protect your joints from damage.
Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the synovium layer. The synovium layer is this thin layer of protection to keep your bones from rubbing together. However, when the synovium layer starts to thicken and become inflamed it causes excessive synovial fluid to build up in the joint. The swelling and inflammation cause pain and stiffness.
It may seem beneficial to rest when your joints are inflamed; however, the opposite is true. You want to keep moving as much as possible. Walking or even water exercises can help keep your joints moving. However, on days when the pain and swelling are too much. Do listen to your body and call your doctor immediately. Getting immediate treatment can help you get back on your feet and moving.
Exercise, even walking, releases chemicals in the brain that help relieve pain naturally. It is a natural high that you feel and it can help ease your pain, even if it’s only for a short period of time.
Staying active and exercising also gets you up and moving so that you aren’t stuck inside of the house constantly. Being trapped in the house all the time can make your depression increase; therefore, your pain also increases. Your mental and physical health are connected.
When you live a sedentary lifestyle, it is super easy for your weight to creep up slowly. Getting outside and walking can help burn calories. As you get stronger, walking at least 20 to 30 minutes can make a huge difference in your waistline, even if you aren’t trying to lose weight. But it is possible that if you walk for 20 to 30 minutes a day and eat a healthy, balanced meal, you can actually lose weight.
Prevent Type 2 Diabetes or Other Metabolic Disorders
Did you know that type 2 diabetes often goes undetected unless patients go to the doctor with these symptoms:
- increased urination
- excessive thirst
- rapid weight loss (ie 15 to 20 lbs in a few months)
- excessive hunger pangs
- new or weird skin problems
- cuts that are healing too slowly
- frequent yeast infections
- usual fatigue despite getting enough sleep
- increased irritability
- blurry vision or floaters in the eye (eye doctors usually find diabetes before your regular physician)
- tingling or numbness.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor so that they can order a simple blood test to determine if you have type 2 diabetes or another metabolic disorder.
A metabolic disorder can happen when you meet a combination of factors including:
- Extra weight especially around your midsection
If you already have diabetes or a metabolic disorder, regular exercise can help control your blood sugar and keep you healthier.
Maintain Healthy Bones
As you age, your bone density changes. Staying active can help slow down the aging process. Maintaining healthy bones can prevent fractures, keep your joints stable, and increase muscle performance. Physical activity also helps your body stay moving so that you can continue to do your day to day activities that you enjoy.
The older that you get, the risk of fracturing hip increases. People who live a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to becoming a fall-risk. As you age, the most common injury from a fall results in a hip fracture. A hip fracture can be a life-altering injury. Regular exercise when you are younger can reduce your risk for hip injuries later in life.
Improves Symptoms of Depression
Being in constant pain can fuel symptoms of depression so it is important that you stay on top of your mental health too. It is important that when you feel a major downward spiral that you reach out immediately for help. Your doctor may even put you on antidepressants to help improve your symptoms. Untreated depression isn’t healthy and can lead to participating in unwanted risky behaviors.
Depression is a mental illness and it should be treated just like when you get sick. When you are sick, you typically go to the doctor so that you can get to feeling better. Medication isn’t a magic pill that fixes your depression instantly. It is simply a tool to help balance the chemicals in your brain But walking on da daily basis can help increase the natural painkilling endorphins. These endorphins also help lift your mood. Walking may not cure your depression but it can help you manage the symptoms.
Strength for Accomplishing Daily Activities
Does simple household chore make you feel as if you just ran a marathon? Daily activities can be difficult when you suffer from a chronic health condition but you don’t want to get to the point where you can’t take care of the day to day chores. Walking keeps your muscles and joints stronger. When you are stronger, it makes doing simple daily tasks easier.
That doesn’t mean that you should tackle everything at once or overdo it. I’ve learned over the last few years while living with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, that you have to pace yourself. It’s much easier to do a little bit at a time, take a break, and then do a bit more. But also, you should listen to your body if it is telling you to rest too.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks your joints while causing severe pain, swelling, and inflammation. There are treatment options for managing this disease but even with medications, there is still a high probability that you will suffer from daily aches and pains that range from mild to severe. Walking is highly beneficial when it comes to managing your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.