Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to the joints. It usually affects the joints of the hands, feet, knees, elbows, shoulders and hips. It also affects other organs like the heart, lungs, eyes and kidneys. All types of exercise benefit RA patients in different ways. It is important to discuss with your doctor which exercises are safe and may provide the most benefit based on the joints affected and overall disease activity. As a general rule, 30-45 minutes of exercise, 4-5 times a week is sufficient.
In a conversation with Zee News English, Dr. Siddharth Shah, Consultant Orthopedics & Joint Replacement Surgery, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim shares all about Rheumatoid Arthritis
How does rheumatoid arthritis affect the body?
Dr. Siddharth says, “Inflammatory joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Chronic disease results in irreversible joint damage and deformity. As a result, the affected person cannot use their joints for regular body functions. Multiple joint involvement and symmetrical pain are common. This of the disease. Another characteristic of this condition is morning stiffness, which usually subsides after about 30-60 minutes of physical exertion. RA also causes loss of muscle mass, resulting in weakness. It can also lead to rapid bone loss leading to osteoporosis. . . . ”
Can exercise help relieve pain and inflammation?
“Regular exercise positively affects joint function in RA. It helps relieve stiffness and swelling and improves flexibility. Strengthening exercises are known to reduce inflammation. In addition, they help combat the cachectic (cachexia: loss of muscle mass) effect. RA and Improved muscle strength Weight-bearing exercises improve bone density, highlights Dr. Siddharth.
Exercise to reduce inflammation and pain for arthritis
Here are some simple daily exercises shared by Dr. Siddharth for people with RA:
1. Stretching Exercises: Stretching works on the joint capsule and helps improve joint flexibility and relieve stiffness. These can be specific exercises for the affected joints or part of a practice such as yoga, tai-chi or pilates.
– Hands and wrists are some of the most common joints affected by RA. Use one hand to gently bend back the extended wrist and fingers of the other hand. Hold for a few seconds and then bend the wrists and fingers down in the opposite direction. Do 10-15 repetitions at a time.
– Another useful stretching exercise for legs and calves. Lean against a wall with both your arms raised and resting against it. Gently slide one leg back and kneel partially at the knee. You will feel the calf and ankle tendons stretch. Hold for about 5 seconds and do 10 repetitions for each side.
– As above, can be stretched for different parts of the body. Remember, don’t overdo it. Stop if it causes severe pain.
2. Low-impact weight-bearing exercises: Walking, stair-climbing or low-impact cardio exercises help maintain bone and muscle strength. The low-impact nature of this activity protects these patients’ already fragile joints from further damage.
3. Resistance Exercise: These exercises help increase muscle strength and can be performed using elastic bands or weights. Care must be taken to avoid injury during weight lifting.
4. Water Exercise: Swimming and water aerobics can be very effective for RA patients. Exercising in water facilitates working the joints with load or impact.