Here's a no-brainer: Regular exercise provides multiple benefits for anybody who wants to improve their health.
And here's something you might not know: Regular exercise is even more important for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis that causes destructive inflammation in the lining of the joints. If it goes untreated, the inflammation will cause damage to the cartilage and even the bones themselves. Over time, the joints will become deformed and movement will become limited and more painful.
In addition to joint damage, rheumatoid arthritis affects many aspects of the individual’s health.
The inflammatory process is now thought to be associated with a 50% increase in the risk of cardiovascular events and death. In addition, there can be a significant loss of muscle mass, which can lead to balance and stability issues as well as increasing stress on the joints themselves. There is also a marked bone density loss, which can result in fractures.
Ready for some good news? Treatments have improved greatly. Early treatment can control joint pain and swelling, and that can result in less damage to your joints. The best treatment of rheumatoid arthritis involves more than medicine alone. Patient education is extremely important. One facet of treatment that is often neglected is exercise.
The benefits of exercise on RA patients are widely documented. Some advantages that are particularly important to RA patients include:
- Reduced pain
- Stronger bones
- More mobility and energy
And RA patients could experience some of these benefits that also apply to the general public:
- Decrease in heart disease and strokes
- Improvement in cholesterol profiles
- Decreasing blood pressure
- Better control of diabetes
- Reversing osteoporosis
What types of exercise?
There are at least three aspects of exercise that should be addressed.
- Aerobic training (walking, cycling, water exercises or dance), which improve cardiovascular issues
- Resistance training, which helps with improving muscle mass and strength
- Stretching (tai chi, yoga), which will improve range of motion
Some patients will need a physical therapist or occupational therapist to help find the activities best suited for them. What is most reassuring, is that no studies have shown these exercises increase joint damage.
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Wilmington, NC 28401