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Wobble Bobble

Wobble Bobble

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?

RA and balance

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.

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?

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.

RA and the eyes

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.

But, really, who knows?

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.

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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • mizmaxgordon
    8 months ago

    My balance used to be fine. Lately, I have fallen several times while walking on flat ground and teetered when getting up from a seated position or off the floor. One effect of my RA is small-fiber peripheral neuropathy (SFPN), which can cause paresthesias (abnormal sensations such as burning, cold, prickling) and dysesthesias (unpleasant sensations). For the past few months, I have had a painful and unpleasant sensation in my ear—imagine a burning coal or a chunk of ice inside the ear, right behind the eardrum), and this is most likely due to the SFPN. The upshot is, I don’t know which is the primary cause of my balance issues.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Mizmaxgordon. So sorry you are having this small-fiber neuropathy issues. Have you been diagnosed with fibromyalgia? I ask because fibromyalgia is often comorbid with RA and small-fiber neuropathy is prevalent in those with fibromyalgia. This article from our editorial team looks at the fibromyalgia and RA connection: Wishing you the best. Richard ( Team)

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    8 months ago

    Oh yikes, @mizmaxgordon! I am so sorry you are dealing with all that.

    I think I have it relatively easy because my doctor thinks my balance is probably due to my sinusitis issues. I had surgery to fix the sinus a few years ago but I guess with everything else going on it didn’t take 🙁

    Thanks for sharing on my article!! ~Monica

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    9 months ago

    Monica, great article! I have had balance issues for years and never attributed them to RA. (I always attributed them to being left-handed in a right-handed world!) Most of us do have to think when we walk, and now I have more reason to do so. Thank you.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    I’m a lefty too, Mary Sophia!

    I never really thought about my balance but recently especially I’ve noticed I’m dropping water from my glass because I’m not steady or feel a little wobbly on the stairs.

    (My rheumatologist wants me to see my PCP about my chronic sinusitis and rule that out as a possible reason). We have way too many things to think about!!

    Thanks for commenting!! ~Monica

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hey @mcadwell!! Thanks for commenting!

    I hit my hip just this morning and I can still feel the ghost of searing pain. I remember always doing this but somehow it feels more now.

    I brought up my balance problems with my doctor because I also started dropping water or other liquids from glasses when I never used to…He wants me to get my sinuses checked out again (an ongoing issue for me).

    Until then, I’ve just amped up my PT exercises because it’s kind of scaring me!

  • mcadwell
    8 months ago

    Interesting, I’m also a lefty. And I’ve always had “klutz” issues (kitchen countertops are my nemesis – I swear to you, they reach out and whack me in the hip!)

    Since my RA has kicked up a notch (or twelve) I’m not steady taking pictures, holding a cup pretty much ensures I’ll be wearing the liquid from inside it (I purchased mugs with lids to help prevent this). I have to use the stair railing so I don’t trip. I can trip on a hardwood floor without anything on it (although I personally believe it was a dust bunny that caused my latest trip/fall).

    All silliness aside, I believe as our RA progresses, our joints either become too loose or too rigid which assists in our klutziness. Hands can’t grip right, ankles/knees/hips can’t move right, boom, next thing we know we slam into the wall or floor.

    Take care all of us!!

  • Dorca
    9 months ago

    For the past year in a half i’ve had balance issues but never attributed to RA! I worry about falling, I worry about my right ankle hurting when I get up from a chair or sofa.

    Thanks for writing this article. I will ask the doctor next time I go for a visit.

    Stay strong…

  • Richard Faust moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi Dorca. Glad you found the article helpful in making you think about balance issues and deciding to discuss it with your doctor. As this article from one of our contributors discusses, falls are a major source of injuries: She also offers some prevention tips. Best, Richard ( Team)

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey Dorca!! Thank you so much for commenting! Richard shared a great article so I’m just going to echo what he said about talking to your doctor.

    I had my most recent appointment and my rheumatologist wants me to get my sinuses checked out again just to rule them out as a possible cause. I wouldn’t have put those two together since I technically had them corrected a few years ago!

    Thanks again for sharing!! I really appreciate when you comment on my articles! ~Monica

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