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Possible RA. Does exercise help?

SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
edited 22. Jul 2015, 10:47 in Living with Arthritis archive
Hi folks,

I'm new to the forum and have just posted a huge hello in the 'Saying Hello' thread. I won't bore everyone with the details of my case again. Suffice to say that I think I have some form of RA although I'm yet to be officially diagnosed. Specialists have told me they suspect it and I seem to tick a lot of boxes I see online.

What I was wondering is how normal does life become once you take the proper meds? I'm 38 and up until my first symptoms last year, I led an active lifestyle and was a keen on being outdoors a lot whether hiking or on my mountain bike. I have 2 young children who I want to be as active as possible with (certainly more than I have been recently!) The worst of my pain is in my shoulders and right foot. It has gotten to the stage that I struggle to carry my 5 month old daughter and it's upsetting me a lot. I've also been feeling down about not being able to take my 8 year old son out cycling.

I work offshore where we have a good gym and over the last few days I've been doing a few gentle sessions on the exercise bike. It's the first exercise I've done in a year and I feel really good after doing it and possibly a bit less sore (maybe in my head?). Can I improve things if I exercise more? It's a struggle to get the motivation to get up and do it even though I know I feel better afterwards. If I knew I was helping myself by doing it, it may make it easier to drag myself down there.

Anyway, thank you all for being here. I think if, like I fear, I have RA, I'm glad I found this forum and look forward to contributing and benefiting from the support contained within.

Kev

Comments

  • daffy2daffy2 Posts: 1,713
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hello Kev and welcome, but sorry you had to find us as they say! Having read your other post I can understand why you are feeling a bit fed up - talk about going round the houses! Unfortunately that can be the case, especially with RA(if that is what it proves to be) as there are plenty to choose from. It can get a bit quiet here at the weekend but there will be folks along in due course much better placed to answer, and hopefully help you - I have OA so can't be of much use.
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you for the reply Daffy. Also, thank you for taking the time to trawl through my other post. Whether you can offer much advice or not, it's always nice to receive a few kind words.

    Like many others I'm afraid I knew very little about any kind of arthritis before it was suggested that I may have it myself. I still know less about OA than RA as I've not really been researching it the same but I hope your good days outnumber the bad.
  • elnafinnelnafinn Posts: 8,043
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Saltdog

    I am sorry to read your posting. Regarding exercise, I would advocate exercise if one is able to do it as it is much better for the body to keep moving than not.

    I have OA but I am pretty sure you will get the thumbs up from those suffering with RA that exercise can only be beneneficial. The problem is the possibility of overdoing it. There again, we learn by our mistakes. We may ache a little after exercise but if it does not last that long then you are doing OK.

    As you say, you feel better after exercising so I would say carry on:) It is most important to do things you enjoy.

    Go to the gym, do some gentle exercise and feel good afterwards. That is the way forward.

    I hope you get your diagnosis soon and then take it from there.

    Elna
    The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.

    If you can lay down at night knowing in your heart that you made someone's day just a little bit better, you know you had a good day.
  • dibdabdibdab Posts: 1,498
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Kev,

    I too have RA, but can't pretend to be any kind of expert in the subject of exercise :oops: . All I can say for sure is that when I'm feeling well enough to go for lovely extended walks with hubby and the dog my sense of well being is much greater....it's as if the positive aspect of being 'able2 to do stuff just makes life more normal. Also I believe that the more we are able to exercise to strengthen muscles, then the better our ailing joints are supported in the long run.

    Given the variable nature of RA, I suspect that there will be times when you feel more able to exercise, and others when perhaps the fatigue will tell you it's time to rest......in the long run as you get more experienced at listening to your body you'll know when it's time to conserve energy and just do the stuff you need to do to get by.

    To encourage you, if it is indeed RA, there are all kinds of medications out there that can in time control the disease and dampen down the inflammatory processes.......but it may take a while to find the right combination for you, we're all different and it's very much a case of trial and error, I personally take a combination of 3 meds that work reasonably well most of the time. Also there are ways of adjusting how we do certain tasks that lessen strain on sore joints, and you'll work those out for yourself. You could ask for a referral to an occupational therapist who can give you lots of good advice about ways of doing stuff and extra gadgets that might help.

    Deb xx
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you Elna and Deb,

    I can see I've come to the right place with such kind responses. I have to keep this response short as I'm off to work but will find time a bit later on to write some more.

    I had a good session in the gym this morning which makes me feel a lot better. Long may it continue.

    Kev
  • As5567As5567 Posts: 665
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    If you're finding exercise benefits you then I would say carry on. Since starting physiotherapy on my back I've noticed a huge improvement in being able to get out of bed and stand up from low sitting chairs. If you have good muscle strength around the joints then it's going to help support them during the good and bad times which will hopefully make life that little bit easier.

    If it is RA that you do have then exercise alone probably won't be enough, it's hard to tell how you would respond to medication as everyone is different, but what I do know is that early diagnosis is key to a much better prognosis. I have had some medications work so good that I had 0 symptoms at all, at one point I went almost 3 years without any bother other than the odd small flare up here and there. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis not RA but the treatment and disease are very similar.
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you AS5567,

    It's encouraging to hear the stories from other people to know that firstly, I'm not alone and that secondly, there are things I can do to help if I do indeed get a proper diagnosis.

    I already know that whatever I have doesn't give me the markers in my blood. I've been told that unfortunately, this fact will make the diagnosis a lot more difficult. So far the pain seems to be mostly limited to my shoulders and my right foot (started on the heel but has since moved more to the outer toes and outer ball of the foot). However, over the last week or so my jaw has been sore which again, could be completely unrelated but it's fairly natural to put two and two together to make five! If I'm honest, I'd love it to be something temporary which can be magically cured (as I'm sure everyone on here also wishes) but nothing any GPs or specialists have told me, lead me in any other direction. I'm basically trying to prepare myself for the most likely outcome. If it turns out to be something else - yay! I've always been a realist though. Maybe even slightly on the pessimistic side, but I do enjoy being pleasantly surprised! I'm at the stage now that I just want to know so I can start doing something about it.

    I may have given the wrong impression with my talk of exercise. I am by no means a super fit athlete. I enjoy the outdoors and like to go mountain biking on occasion. I'm also overweight though and enjoy my food a little too much! Yes, I'm active as I have young kids, a dog and a mountain bike which cost too much for my wife to allow me to leave it in the garage. I don't know if it's natural though that I suddenly have a much stronger desire to be super fit now that I seem to be losing the ability.

    My main concern is keeping my job I suppose. I work offshore which involves a certain level of fitness. If I can't meet the standard, I lose my job. That scares me more than anything right now. So I guess that's what I was really wanting to know about the meds. Will they stop me getting much worse or at least slow it for a bit? Or is there just no way to know?

    Kev
  • dibdabdibdab Posts: 1,498
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    We are all individuals in terms of how we react to meds, but the aim of rheumatologists is to slow the progress of the disease and therefore protect the functionality of joints. If you have an inflammatory arthritis (of which RA is one manifestation) you will have times when you have more pain/discomfort than others, this is what is called a 'flare' of the disease, but short bursts of steroids work well to reduce the inflammation in this event.......I had a steroid injection on Tuesday and happily my soreness and swelling of the hands has started to reduce and I feel more human again :) . It's easy to say don't worry, but genuinely I would encourage you to be optimistic, it may take a few months to sort the right drug combinations for you, but meds are improving and developing all the time; when my grandma had RA in my childhood there was only aspirin and gold injections, and by my age she was fairly crippled and in constant pain, for me the progress has been very much slower and the drug therapy and pain relief more effective.

    Keep asking questions, information and knowledge help to take away the fear factor.

    Deb xx
  • tkachevtkachev Posts: 8,332
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I also advocate exercise. Unfortunately I suffer from fatigue but have found the endless resting has made me sluggish and my legs puffy so I now make an effort to walk about and truly feel better for it. I'm not saying it is easy but in my case I felt like I was in a vicious circle, resting but feeling worse rather than feeling better. However I fully understand if pain and fatigue make it difficult.

    Elizabeth xxx
    Never be bullied into silence.
    Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
    Accept no ones definition of your life

    Define yourself........

    Harvey Fierstein
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you again Deb,

    Your post made a lot of sense. Knowing that there are ways to slow the progress of this condition is very comforting. I've seen a lot of people say that it's critical to start taking the meds as soon as possible to reduce the risk of damage to the joints. However, I've not yet read anything about how soon is soon? I feel the pain in my foot is having repercussions over other parts of my body such as legs and back. The limping over a long period has messed up my posture. If I can maybe get the foot to stop being sore then I can see about improving that though. My right ankle feels incredibly weak but doesn't feel the same as my sore joints.

    I was also asked in a post if I felt especially tired or if my sore joints were hot to the touch. Honestly, I'd have to say no to both of those. Are they signs or symptoms which should be present with arthritis? There just seems like so much to learn. It's difficult finding time while I'm here offshore but when I get back home I fully intend to try to study and digest as much of this forum as I possibly can. Even if I end up not being diagnosed with Arthritis, a little extra knowledge never hurt anyone.

    Kev
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank for contributing. I completely understand what you mean. It is a vicious circle. I felt fairly sore yesterday morning so never went to the gym for the first time since coming back to work and I felt worse for it the whole day. It made me more keen to go this morning.

    I don't do anything excessive while I'm in the gym. Just a quite light spinning session on the bike we have while watching 'Homes Under the Hammer'! Or 'Saturday Kitchen' today since it's the weekend. I do break a sweat but nothing compared to what I used to. My heart rate monitor assures me I'm burning about 500 calories with each session though so it can't be bad.

    Kev
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I have an odd thing going on today. I never managed to get to the gym this morning as we had an emergency drill. Over the last week, if I haven't managed to get to the gym, I normally feel a lot worse for it. However, I feel ok today. In fact, I feel as well as if I had been to he gym. The way I see it, there could be one of two reasons. Firstly, the gym makes me get out of bed in the morning so I'm not lying about for too long and the drill this morning did exactly the same thing. Secondly, the gym gives me a really positive mindset which I seem to have today anyway. I'm guessing either of those things could be responsible for making me feel less sore. Can a positive mindset alter a physical feeling or is the fact that I have less pain today giving me that positive mindset?? Chicken and egg scenario here folks. I'd welcome thoughts and ideas.

    Kev
  • stickywicketstickywicket Posts: 25,993 ✭✭✭
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Your thinking about the foot pain and consequent bad posture messing up other bits of you is spot on. Sometimes those other bits actually hurt. It's called referred pain.

    I was the one who asked about fatigue and the joints feeling hot to the touch because they're classic symptoms of an auto-immune type of arthritis. It can feel like flu. You're just wiped out. http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/arthritis/symptoms.aspx

    We used to have a Norwegian lady – 'kathe' – who worked on an oil rig. She'd had arthritis (JIA) from childhood. Her stamina was amazing but, when she last posted, she was doing a business degree as she was having trouble with the meds.

    I really don't know about the gym thing. Certainly a positive attitude helps, without a shadow of doubt. It's been shown that those who have one feel less pain. But, is your exercise helping or hindering? My – very uneducated - guess is that you're used to a lot of exercise (even if you feel you're not doing much right now) and you might still be doing more than your joints are happy with. We have to learn to listen to our bodies. If you've been feeling good immediately after exercise but worse afterwards then maybe you've been overdoing it a bit. Unfortunately, so much is trial and error, suck it and see. Or, you could get advice from a physio. The NHS might not provide one while you're undiagnosed (though you could ask) but a private one who specialised in musculo-skeletal disorders could maybe keep an eye on you for a while and talk you through things.
    “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Luckily Stickywicket I have access to a very good physiotherapist on a regular basis so I will indeed ask her about my exercise. In the mean Tim however, I'm going to try and keep it up. If nothing else, I like the feeling of well being I get from it. Saying that, I feel a bit miserable this morning as I think I'm coming down with a cold and didn't sleep well. I may give it a miss. I will monitor how I feel over the day and if the pain is definitely greater, I'll get back in the gym tomorrow. Trial and error.

    I've seen others on here discuss their inflammatory markers in their blood. Are these also known as CRP figures? I had a blood test done recently and they came out as 125.8, 109 and 205.9. I've never really known what that meant though. Does anyone else on here have more of an idea?

    Kev
  • barbara12barbara12 Posts: 20,868
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hello kev and welcome to the forum
    I was just going to say , see if you can get referred to a physio, but I see you already have.
    Exercising is a must but has to be the right kind for you, mainly stretching and keeping mobile , its so easy to do them wrong , and cause more damage..dont ever use heavy weights..light weights if any ..good luck :)
    Love
    Barbara
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you for the welcome Barbara. I'm very lucky to have a very good private physio whom I see regularly ever since I had my shoulder problems. My medical insurance covers it indefinitely which is an incredible weight off the mind.

    I used to very much be from the 'heavy weights' camp but I've not been physically able to do that for quite some time anyway. I've been mainly doing gentle spinning sessions and using resistance bands which my physio provided. Sometimes I find it quite sore to exercise with the bands and my physio has told me not to work through the pain. With the spinning sessions though, there is very little pain while doing it and what seems like a lot of relief afterwards. I'm agonising on whether I should be giving up mountain biking as it can be quite a high impact sport. I've not been able to do it in a while but I was hoping someday to get back to it. I was kind of hoping that if I did get diagnosed soon enough and I got on some meds that I might still be able to do it? If I have to give it up though, I will deal with that when it happens.

    Kev
  • dreamdaisydreamdaisy Posts: 31,567 ✭✭✭
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    We are all individuals with varying degrees of ability when it comes to exercise. I think that, like the meds, it has to be another matter of trial and error. Like many on here I have had to re-think what exercise means to me, over the years I have lost the ability to walk long distances, swim (getting out is the killer, gravity hits and undoes any good I've achieved), ride my bike or dance. I recently harmed my very creaky right knee doing my phsyio exercises to improve my feet - standing on tiptoe was the culprit!

    We have to listen to our bodies and become familiar with the varying messages that they send. I keep my pain relief to the minimum so I can feel the feedback when my limits are being reached. I can tell whether I need to work through the tiredness or give in and go to bed. I've learned to inform my very hardworking Spouse that he will be washing up or prepare a very lazy meal: I don't see the point in flogging on with something which will only make things worse for longer, that's not good for either of us.

    Exercise can be beneficial mentally, especially with the sense of achievement and those lovely endorphins running round the system, and that for sure helps us cope better with the debilitation and varying limitations but you will have to find your path. I keep as positive mentally as I can - I could be grumpy and miserable but why? :? That won't help me and will affect those around me whereas smiling, laughing and just getting on as best I can is a far more positive route. It's all too easy to focus on what we cant do. DD
    Have you got the despatches? No, I always walk like this. Eddie Braben
  • StarburstStarburst Posts: 2,546
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Kev,

    Welcome to the fold. As you can see, these lot are a friendly bunch with lots of collective wisdom between us. I wish you all the best of luck with everything.
    dreamdaisy wrote:
    We are all individuals with varying degrees of ability when it comes to exercise. I think that, like the meds, it has to be another matter of trial and error.

    I couldn't agree more with the wise and wonderful DD on this point. I think that it doesn't always get mentioned but your exercise habits pre-arthritis plays a role too. I was an active teenager, going to dance classes 3 times a week but as an adult, running for the bus was my only form of exercise. :D So, when I was diagnosed with RA, I wasn't suddenly going to start craving a 5 mile run. <shudders> I also agree with adjusting to your view of exercise and what it means to you. I sometimes say "I don't exercise" but I do my physio daily and ensure a 10 minute stroll. For my abilities, this is my exercise. It shouldn't be discounted. We are all climbing our metaphorical mountains on a daily basis.
  • SaltdogSaltdog Posts: 30
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you DD and Starburst for your very positive posts. I'm inclined to agree with all you've said. Judging by all the posts I've read on here so far I'm still very early on in this whole process. Although I'm suffering from some pain and stiffness, it's not so bad that I need to stop doing things I love just yet. I haven't been mountain biking in a year because I was scared of the pain in my shoulders and the damage I could be doing. Since I've taken up spinning though, I'm finding that the body movement I get from cycling seems to be loosening me up and lessening the pain to a certain degree. It does gradually come back over the period of the day but my job offshore is fairly sedentary so I blame that. When I get back home next week I intend to move more. I'll also get out on my bike with my son. I'd be daft to go and do any extreme biking with 10 foot drops but there's nothing to stop me following my 8 year old along a grassy path, which I'll probably get more satisfaction from anyway. I might up it a notch every now and again but only as far as my body feels comfortable with.

    Thank you all so much for your ongoing advice.

    Kev
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