|With a Physical Therapist Early in RA Treatment. ©James Sobredo|
Responses in general made it clear that the RA community was eager to know the kinds of helpful exercises for RA sufferers. This was not surprising. In the past few months, I have encountered folks suffering from RA and similar autoimmune disease, or who knew someone in the same boat. These chance encounters occurred when at restaurants or at short stays at hotels in California and elsewhere. Frequently, the unsolicited exchange would start with a smile. The facial greeting was followed by questions about why I need a walking cane? Engaging conversations reaffirmed that many are looking for answers.
|Visit with Dr. Robert Shapiro, My RA Specialist. ©James Sobredo|
Healthy Eating/Healthy Life Style for me partly meant fruit and vegetable smoothies. See article on juicing: Life With RA: Juicing To Relieve Pain. After two years of juicing routine and meatless meals, I slowly re-introduced chicken and sometimes pork in my diet. After two years of once again eating white meat and continuing with seafood in my diet, I have returned to only eating fruits, vegetables and seafood. My penchant for desserts is my vice, and I labor to gradually moderate the habit. Although I don’t have scientific proof that types of diet could influence my disease, I only could attest that I feel healthier when I adjusted meal choices. And occurrences of inflammation seemed to have diminished.
|Vegetable Smoothie: Spinach and Avocado Delight. ©Lu Sobredo|
Mental Health is a component of one’s RA and health journey that seems to be easily ignored. This component of RA experience is important to include here. I wrote about susceptibility to feeling vulnerable to dejection. The following is an excerpt from an earlier essay—Travel Abroad With My Son and Disability: This feeling of dejection could come and go like a nightmare. It is common among people afflicted with a chronic and debilitating disease. The nagging pain and feeling of helplessness are enough to lower stamina. Invariably, a lowered stamina and a compromised immune system are just two of the many symptoms of the disease. They are also potential side effects of the prescription drugs. If I had internalized what the first consulting physician said to me three years before, my life might have been doomed forever. If at any point in my health journey, I had chosen to stay under bedcovers in an unlit room with curtains drawn closed, sleep in or mope about at home, my mental outlook would be totally different today. It is so easy to see only the darkest clouds over the brightness of day with this disease.
|Travel with My Son to Monsseratt in Barcelona, Spain. ©James Sobredo|
|Time on the Stationary Bike. ©Lu Sobredo|
Having exhausted my PT eligibility with my health insurance, I signed up with the neighborhood gym. At first, I spent 30 minutes twice a week on a stationary bike. I struggled, yet was encouraged when I saw a change that my body desperately needed. I successfully increased resistance on the machine each time. And I have regained some muscle mass to show for it.
As I progressed towards enhanced ease in movement, I didn’t need a wheelchair all the time. My RA specialist next insisted I try water therapy in the pool. My body recoiled as it remembered my fear of drowning while under the PT’s earlier care. Throbbing pain & stiffness in my knees and joints made it difficult to walk down the steps leading into the pool. I had to be lowered into the pool using a battery-powered chair. Thank goodness my gym is equipped with one.
|Equipments for Aqua Aerobics Led by Lynne Anderson. ©Lu Sobredo|
Consistent attendance in aqua aerobics paid off. Three months after joining, I didn’t need to be lowered into the pool on a battery-powered chair. I awkwardly managed to walk down the steps into the water. In subsequent months, six months after joining, I reduced the number of times I used the wheelchair and later graduated to using a walking cane.
|Morning Chair Exercise Led by Lynne Anderson.©Lu Sobredo|
Dancing (Individual or Group)
|Dancing on New Year's Eve. ©James Sobredo|
|Cousins Trying Out Egoscue Exercise. ©James Sobredo|
If you are suffering from body pain, it is worth checking out his website and facebook business page in which he writes:
Since my disease was autoimmune in nature, I am under a complex medical regimen and physical therapy to hopefully stop further physical damage to my joints and bones. Egoscue is my go-to-exercise upon waking in the morning to loosen my stiffness and ease pain in my hips, shoulders, and occasionally my back and arms. I use the movements anytime of day, anywhere I am. The relief is immediate. From 10 to 60 repetitions of elbow curls and and arm circles are a god-send.
Physical movement is a must for those with RA. Staying committed to a "well-rounded treatment strategy" has been my special ticket to improved physicality and functionality. Writhing pain and stiffness are all too familiar and exercise made it possible to find relief. I remind my readers and their loved ones affected by RA: do not lose hope.
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|Cousin Oscar Gonzales of PainFreeWithOscar.com. ©James Sobredo|
=> The other go-to-exercise was recommended by my RA specialist: water aerobics about three years ago. As I wrote in the essay it was what took me from wheelchair to walking with a cane in less than 6 months, I am convinced of it. I do water aerobics three times a week and three years later, I still keep up the routine as much as my schedule allows. Thanks to my fitness instructor at the gym, Lynne Anderson.
|My Gym Instructor Lynne Anderson. ©Lu Sobredo|
My inspiration to take care of myself and stay with my treatment routine comes from many loved ones, supporters and readers. Here's to keeping the pursuit of both physical and cognitive health important in your life journey.
About the Author
Lu Sobredo is writer/publisher at Lu Travels Abroad, a blog dedicated to folks whose limitations do not hamper them from traveling. About a year into early retirement came the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Her world collapsed from under her as the disability rendered her nearly-immobile and wheelchair-bound for almost three years. Her family's life changed. Her total life changed, but she did not let RA define her. With much will & love from family, friends and an awesome doctor, she regained some functionality--her new normal. She will have RA all her life. And she now writes about life and travel with RA.