We recently adopted a scary-smart dog. She picks up on the subtlest of cues and knows what’s what. She doesn’t stay distracted for long, so we bought her some puzzle toys in hopes of keeping her occupied for more than five seconds. (Dad said he didn’t want a boring dog, well, he got his wish. Mocha is anything but!)
One of her toys is this weird balance thing that when you knock it down, it rolls around but ultimately stands upright. If knocked at the proper angle, it releases treats for the dog as a reward. It’s very similar to those inflatable toys that never die. You know, the ones that you punch and they punch back?
Mocha’s toy got me thinking about my own balance issues. I was never very good at balance. My mum worked with me all the time to get my gross motor function in check. Eventually, I got up to snuff and was good for a while. So good, in fact, I became a balance climber. Though, I am a lot more stable on a wall than I am on the floor.
Factors that may affect balance
A change in my gait due to joint pain
Lately, probably over the last five years, I’ve noticed a shift. I’m not very steady on my feet. I know my gait has changed drastically since I became symptomatic with RA. Balance is greatly affected by the inner ear but I think there are other elements to it. When I am in pain, do I apply the same pressure to my hips, knees, and ankles? Obviously not. But, does it create an even more asymmetrical motion, which in turn creates a stability issue?
Toe pain due to RA and climbing
What about my toes? I have some issues with my big toes. The toenails broke from a mixture of RA and climbing shoes, and never recovered properly. There is pain (thankfully not all the time now) but enough I don’t put full pressure on them either. I’m sure that affects my balance.
Change in depth perception due to Sjogren's
Let’s not even get started on my eyes. I have secondary Sjogren’s and suffer from very dry eyes. It sometimes affects my depth perception. I’d be daft if I didn’t say that affected my balance as well.
Is RA really behind my balance problem?
I can speculate until the cows come home and never truly understand the causes. There are always more questions than answers. Everybody’s RA is varied and nuanced as are the causes of their symptoms. I was in PT for my back, but my therapist gave me exercises for balance. He said that even though it wasn’t a major issue for me it was something to keep in mind as a person with Rheumatoid Disease.
Keeping balance in mind for the future
My balance isn’t horrible, honestly. I don’t feel unsafe walking around because I don’t get dizzy. That doesn’t mean I am okay with it. I don’t enjoy feeling like a “wobble-bobble”. It’s uncomfortable and unnerving. Balance isn’t something I think about constantly but maybe I should. Good balance is important for anyone, but especially important in RA management when a fall could break brittle bones or even trigger a nasty flare.
Do you deal with balance issues? If so, how do you deal with them?
When was your last flare?