RArainbow

A resource blog for young women living with Arthritis


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Waking up and Juvenile Arthritis

[Image credit: Charlotte Bradley - Someecards.com]
[Image credit: Charlotte Bradley – Someecards.com]

Hi everyone ;). When I first saw the Ecard above, it made me laugh. Sadly, I could relate to it all too well. Can you relate to it too? If you have autoimmune arthritis, you’ll probably be familiar with the experience of waking up only to realize that your joints are filled with stabbing pains and you can barely move :(. When I was younger, I would experience severe morning stiffness in all my joints. There were terrible days when my joints were simply locked and I was trapped and unable to get off the bed. Can you guys relate to this? Nowadays my condition has calmed significantly with treatment, but morning stiffness and pain are still part of life for me. I often wake up feeling groggy and unrested and it takes some time for my body to get going. Over the years I have developed some techniques to help me out in the morning which I want to share today. If you are battling painful mornings, hang in there friends. Please feel free to share your own techniques and coping mechanisms with me as well, so we can all learn together.

1. Set your alarm early
If you wake up with severe pain in the morning, give yourself some time to relax. When I open my eyes in the morning, it’s difficult/painful to just jump off the bed as my body is often shrouded in pain. Personally, it takes me a half hour to an hour to physically get off the bed.  I know that this is common for many autoimmune arthritis patients :(. But don’t fret, we can get through it. Because it takes time for my joints to “thaw” and loosen up, I always set my alarm a little bit earlier than necessary. This way my body has enough time to relax and my joints get some time to loosen up. e.g. If you know you need to get off the bed by 7am, set your alarm for 6.30am so you can lay in your bed and allow your body to loosen up before attempting to move.

2. Splints, braces and supports
In my last post I mentioned the value of splinting and supporting joints to reduce the discomfort of stiffness in the morning. My joints (like many RA patients) have a tendency to stiffen during periods of inactivity. Sometimes just speaking on the phone for a half hour causes my wrists, fingers and elbows to “freeze” in that position. Have you ever tried to “unlock” or unstretch a “frozen” joint? Talk about OUCH! 😦 Splints and braces have proven extremely helpful in reducing my stiffness in the morning, as they keep my joints secured in a comfortable position.

3. Heat
Heat is often used by arthritis patients to relax stiff joints. This article from ArthritisToday.org gives some pointers on using heat to combat stiffness. I have found that heat helps loosen my joints tremendously. I sometimes use heat packs at night and find that they are actually still warm by morning, which is useful to my joints. However, if you need more heat, have someone from your family bring you a heated pack as soon as you wake up. If you live in a cold area, consider an electric blanket to help warm you up.

4. Hot bath/shower
If you have work or school, it’s a bit difficult to find time in the morning for a hot bath. I have found that a hot shower works just as well in helping to loosen my stiff joints.

5. Do light stretching/exercise/yoga when you wake up
I know that you guys are going to groan for this one (do exercise while stiff and in pain?! Yeah right!), but I’ve found that doing a little stretching while in bed or during the morning period helps my joints to loosen up. Take your time and work on the areas which are problematic. Consult with your physiotherapist for exercises which are appropriate to your specific situation before attempting. You may find these Hand-stretching Exercises from WebMD.com and Bed Exercises from ArthritisSelfManagement.com useful.

I have also found that doing regular exercise/swimming helps with my stiffness overall, so don’t forget to get as much movement as you can, whenever you can, however you can. Trust me, I know that is easier said than done ;). Check out Sneaky ways to exercise with Juvenile Arthritis for some ideas.

6. Brighten that painful mood with music, a television show or a good book
As I mentioned in my last post, living with chronic pain can make us feel quite sad and frustrated at times. While the average healthy person wakes up feeling refreshed, autoimmune arthritis patients often wake up feeling tired and in pain, no matter how much sleep we’ve gotten. As such, we have to find ways to keep ourselves motivated and HAPPY, even in the midst of a tough and painful situation. While relaxing in bed, put on a few of your favourite tunes to help brighten your mood and energize you for the day. If you prefer, stream a short video, play a game or catch up on a little reading before you get off the bed. Take this time to laugh and be entertained and allow that positive mood to carry you into the day, even with pesky arthritis pain. 😉

Okay guys. I know that mornings can be extremely tough. Many of us wake up feeling like we’ve been beaten or physically crushed during the night :(. If you’re newly diagnosed, I know that it’s a very scary and frustrating experience. Hang in there. Feel free to share your experiences with morning stiffness or ways which have helped you through the morning pain. Thanks!

All the best,
Ms. Rainbow

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Sneaky ways to exercise with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Once you’re diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, it’s likely that you will start doing physiotherapy sessions to keep you mobile. As a child I remember how I never looked forward to physiotherapy time. It was such a painful process! My joints were swollen and stiff and the last thing I wanted to do was move them. As an adult, I finally understand how important it is to exercise when we have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Since our joints are experiencing inflammation, we need to strengthen our muscles and bones so that they can help us out when our joints aren’t doing too well. Exercise is also important to reduce deformity and fusion in joints. Exercising when you’re flaring sure isn’t easy, so on those tough days I just do what I can. If I muster up the motivation to drag myself to the pool on these days, I have found find that swimming helps my joints to loosen up.

Each of us has been affected by (J)RA differently, so it would be best to go to a physiotherapist and ask for assistance in developing an exercise routine which will be tailored to our specific body. If our joints are damaged, certain exercises may be too stressful for them (and can cause further damage!). However, I have included some links to exercises you can try at the bottom of this post if you need some inspiration. If you are going to attempt classes, inform your instructor about your (J)RA and do what you can manage.

Now, apparently we’re supposed to be doing our exercises on a daily basis :shock:. But as you all know, when you have a lifetime of JRA, taking an hour or two to do physiotherapy doesn’t always happen every day. Not when young ladies have exams to study for, jobs to do, dates to go on or meals to cook (oh, and RA to manage too)! But we must at least try, right? The more we incorporate movement into our routines, the better for us.

Here are some ideas to keep mobile:

1. Exercise while watching television or listening to music. Try to do the exercises you have learned at physiotherapy while you’re watching your favourite television shows. Instead of lying on the couch, lie on the floor and do some stretches so you don’t get too stiff staying in one position.

2. Use your travel time! If you commute using the bus or subway (or have to take a 6-hour flight), use the time to do some wrist and finger exercises. Stretch from time to time to reduce stiffness.

pool3. Swimming and water exercises. Try to swim at the local pool when you get a free evening. If you’re in school, then make use of the pool there. Hey, you might meet some nice guys and girls while you’re there, which will probably motivate you to keep going. I have to say that swimming helps my stiffness a lot and is my favourite physical activity to do. Also, we don’t put a lot of pressure on our joints when we swim, so for me it’s less painful than doing regular floor exercises. In this article from HealthCentral.com, Christine Miller explores the benefits of swimming and doing water exercises with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

4. Have fun at the beach. If you’re near a beach, turn it into a family outing and get some exercise at the same time. Try doing sports (frisbee, running, football, cricket, volleyball etc.) or take a dip in the water to help loosen your joints. If you’re feeling low-energy that day, try sitting on the sand and building sand castles with your friends and loved ones – it’s a great way to get those wrists and finger joints moving.

5. Rub-a-dub-dub…exercise in the tub. Fill up the bathtub with warm water and do your exercises in there. Add bubble bath to make it more exciting and fun.

6. Dance like nobody’s watching! Turn on the music and do some dancing in the living room with your friends or family…or dog! 😉dance

7.  Work out with the kiddies. If you have kids, do the moves to the Hokey Pokey, If you’re happy and you know it and Head and shoulders with them. Even if you don’t have kids, you can still try this one – just be careful who sees you. 😉

8. Go out and dance! Dress up and go out dancing with your friends. There is no pressure here: you get to move at your own pace, have some fun with your friends and get some exercise – what’s better than that?

9. Boy-band dance moves, RA style. If you’re in my age-group then I have no doubt that you have already tried dancing to the Backstreet Boys’ Everybody music video or *NSYNC’s Bye Bye Bye ;). So turn up the music with your friends and show off those choreographed dance moves. 😉

10. Aerobics classes. I really enjoy doing aerobics and find it to be a good way to keep my body mobile. If you cannot do every single move, just do what you can.

11. Take a dance class. When I was younger I did modern dancing and it really helped me because there was a lot of stretching involved. But there are so many types of dance to choose from: ballroom, hip-hop, bhangra, jazz, latin etc. Take your pick!

12. Yoga. Yoga and stretching can be very beneficial for our stiff bodies, although I admit I cannot do every yoga position! Check out this WebMD video which shows some yoga poses you can try with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

13. Zumba classes. Zumba seems to be a huge craze right now. In college I tried Zumba classes and absolutely loved them! You’re pretty much dancing while exercising. It can be a bit intense, so be careful if your joints are very damaged. Do what you can and move at a pace that suits you.

14. Take a walk around your neighbourhood. If all these classes seem too high-energy for you, then a leisurely walk to your park may be just the thing you need to clear your head after a busy day.

15. Learn the dance moves from the Gangnam Style video. Talk about an intense work out!

If you have (J)RA, then I know you have had a few hundred people lecture you on doing exercises by now. But you know what? I’ve found that it genuinely helps me feel better to keep my body active. I know that on some days just walking is a huge task, so do whatever you can. I always think a little exercise a day is better than none at all. Move at your own pace – you know your body best. I’ve included some links to suggested RA exercises below in case you are feeling extra ambitious today. 😉

-Hand Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis
http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/features/hand-exercises-rheumatoid-arthritis
-Joint-friendly fitness routines (picture slide show)
http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/ss/slideshow-ra-exercises
-Rheumatoid Arthritis and exercise
http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/exercise-and-rheumatoid-arthritis

 

Readers, what is your favourite way to keep mobile with Rheumatoid Arthritis?  Feel free to share your ideas in the comments so we can all learn together.

 

Happy exercising!

Ms. Rainbow

[Images by pixabay.com]