A resource blog for young women living with Arthritis

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#RABlogWeek – Day 5 – Exercise and RA

In honour of #RABlogWeek, I am re-posting a previously written article. Today’s prompt asks bloggers to write about their experiences with RA and Exercise. Please share your experiences in the comments so that we can all learn together. Thank you!


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
-Joint-friendly fitness routines (picture slide show)
-Rheumatoid Arthritis and exercise

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]

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Farewell to the Red Band Society

[Red Band Society Spoiler Alert! You have been warned! ;)]

Hi everyone! I meant to write this post a while ago, but have only just gotten the time to do it. Anyway, I didn’t want to let this series fade away without writing my thoughts on it. For those of you who are visiting this site for the first time, it’s important to note that I have been living with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for the past 23 years.

For those who may not be familiar with the show, Red Band Society is about a group of young persons with various medical conditions who all live together in a hospital setting. You can view full episodes of the series on Fox’s website here. I was surprised at how much hate Red Band Society received due to the fact that I absolutely loved this series, which was short-lived and ended in February 2015. I am not a huge TV person but Red Band Society was one show I did not miss. I think I may have cried during every single episode of this series. There were so many moments with these young characters where I found myself nodding and relating to their fears, concerns and joys too. Many persons have pointed out the flaws of this show, where doctors are hot, rooms are humongous, patients have perfect hair, Ivs are mostly absent and no one is puking. Yes, a lot of details weren’t realistic in this show, but I appreciate the fact that the creators of this show were brave enough to try something new and showcase a slice of life which is often hidden in our society. A slice of life which happens for many behind closed doors and is often not discussed in real life.

In my entire life, I’ve never related to characters on television as much as I related to the characters of the Red Band Society. From the early episodes where Jordi took one last run before heading off to surgery to amputate his leg, to watching Leo learn to walk with his prosthetic leg, to Leo’s fears about being intimate with a prosthetic leg, I was able to relate to the fears and joys which each character was feeling.

There is something extremely special about growing up with illness and finding your way in this world while dealing with illness. Many persons believe that illness is a stain on one’s life and a bleak and unhappy situation. But Red Band Society was able to show that for many youths, chronic illness is just a normal part of life. Getting diagnosed at a young age means that I didn’t have many years of perfect health. As a result, everything I’ve experienced and accomplished thus far has been with arthritis. And for me, having arthritis is completely normal and not something I actively think about.

The ending of Red Band Society showed that the futures of many of our characters were on track but still unknown – which is pretty accurate when you deal with chronic illness. Also, for many who have grown up in the hospital setting, the hospital represents a “safe” place where we can get help and be ourselves with illness. But in real life we can’t stay there forever and we have to go out into the real world with all its real world challenges. And that’s what happened with our characters – while it was amazing to have that camaraderie and support in the hospital, they also had to face up to their conditions and directly deal with their unique situations.
As the characters say in the final episode: “Some things stay perfect forever.”
“Yeah, like us. This, what we have here. I don’t care where we end up, but this is forever.”

Watching Red Band Society definitely made me feel more empowered as a young person with an illness. I don’t interact with many persons with illness in my real life, so Red Band Society was a breath of fresh air in a television landscape which does not usually showcase chronic illness. For those of you who want to watch the series, you can stream it here.

For those of you who did view the series, what did you think of it?

❤ Ms. Rainbow

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Happy new year!

Dear friends,

I wanted to take this moment to wish all of you a very happy new year! I hope that you had a great time celebrating and hope that 2015 brings us everything we wish for, especially illness-wise. I have been busy with work and life (and flares) and good times too. I hope all of you are plodding along also and enjoying yourselves! 🙂

I found this really wonderful graphic which I wanted to share with you guys below. In our own corners of the world, we each endure our separate struggles and it’s easy to feel alone with illness. But do remember that together we can work things out. I encourage you to read blogs and join forums for young persons, where you will find people who have gone through similar experiences. I have learned so much from reading about the experiences of others and it has helped me feel more comfortable with my arthritis. Remember too that you are wonderful exactly the way you are and that you can bring a new perspective on life wherever you go. Too often we focus on “fitting in” when we are fine just the way we are (I know this sounds cheesy, but I really mean it 😉 ). Your unique experiences are just as valid as anyone’s, so never be afraid to be yourself. I am thankful for each of you and hope that you have an AMAZING 2015! 🙂

Ms. Rainbow