One painful step at a time
Walking. Such an important and necessary part of our lives. We need to do it just to function. Not to mention the joy that it brings or the part it plays in daily exercise. RA has made walking a challenge on so many levels. I used to love to stroll my neighborhood with my husband and our dog and before that with my sons when they were little guys. Now I almost dread the daily walks I need to take with my dog because often those walks are accompanied by pain. Pain in my knees, hips, feet, toes, ankles, etc. Even when the walk starts out with little or no discomfort, chances are that later I will feel the result of that walk! And that is the challenge of a disease like RA. It is not always how you feel when you START your activity but rather how your joints react LATER. How completely crazy is that?
I often start my morning walk with my dog enjoying the beauty of the day, the fresh air and the chance to get outdoors for a bit. But all too often if I am not really careful to move slowly (and even sometimes despite moving slowly!) I get home only to find my feet, hips, knees, etc. start to throb and ache. And my day has just started! Many is the time I want to simply get back into bed or curl up on the couch and DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE DAY! Only problem is that makes it worse. Maybe not in that moment but over time we will pay a price for not moving. And it is a price none of us can afford.
Is it hard? Beyond your wildest dreams. But it also brings with it a better outcome in the long term and that is what we all need to tell ourselves every moment of every day. The key is to modify your movements to accommodate the current status of our RA and to be vigilant about how we move our bodies in response.
If my knees and hips are flaring for instance, I know I can still swim but maybe not jog in the pool on those days. And I try to keep trips up and down the steps to a minimum or avoid them altogether if I can. I can still walk slowly around my house and in my yard and that keeps me moving and therefore those joints don’t deteriorate and I keep some degree of range of motion. I also indulge in nice, warm Epsom salt baths or hot tub time as that gives me some much needed relief both physically and mentally.
And how you treat those joints when you ARE NOT FLARING is as important as how you treat them when you are flaring. I used to think that when my joints were doing well I could start back to some of my more intense forms of movement. While that may have worked for a bit, the fact is that sooner or later I would pay the piper for that decision and a flare would be the end result.
MODERATION is the answer. Understand that does not mean stop moving it means take it slow and deliberate. Find ways to move that keep those joints active but without taxing them to point they trigger a flare. Easy? Not at all. It is all about practice, patience and trial and error. But isn’t that what happens in life? No reason that managing our RA should be any different than any other aspect of our journey through life. With time and patience and the clear knowledge that despite the pain it is crucial to move with RA, you can overcome this challenge just as we do with so many other challenges along the RA pathway.
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