RA Has Trained Me How To Heal

Staying active and keeping your body strong are important when you live with chronic disease. Making sure that your cardiovascular system gets an occasional workout is particularly important when you have a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis that can attack the heart and lungs.

Exercise can come in many forms.

It doesn’t have to mean running three miles, cycling for two hours, lifting 20 pound weights, or cleaning the house in one day. Exercise can be anything that helps you to stay mobile, keep your range of motion, maintain strength, breathe a little heavier, get your heart pumping, and manage energy.

For some people, exercise might include marching in place with your feet while sitting on the couch watching the news. For me, my favorite form of exercise is riding my bicycle. And Rob and I have been having a good time riding the trails nearby.

Last week, I was itching to go riding because the weather had been lousy for several days. On Sunday morning, it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t hot, so I got excited to catch a good ride before the clouds opened up in the afternoon for another downpour.

We were just getting warmed up and the bike felt really good under my feet. I noticed debris along a creek that showed how much flash flooding in the previous days had moved the earth. Then I carefully rode through a patch of mud that covered the path.

In slow motion, my back tire began to slide to the left as my body leaned to the right. Although time slowed down, there wasn’t time enough to yell out. I slammed against the pavement. The pavement stole some of the skin off my forearm. Once I stopped sliding along the ground, Rob rushed forward to pull my bike away and help me get up.

“Give me a second. Let me catch my breath,” I said.

My right arm was bent under me and my left arm was outstretched in front of me. I took a few minutes to make sure that it was safe to move, however I couldn’t decide how to get up.

Normally if I’m laying on the floor (not a common occurrence), I put weight on my hands while I get my feet under me before moving into a standing position. But there on the trail, I wasn’t sure that I could or should put weight on my left arm. It didn’t feel quite right. So I rolled over to a seated position before Rob helped me up.

Rob jumped into action. He washed my skinless wound with water from our bottles. I considered riding home, but as the weight of my arm was causing pain, I decided to stay put. Rob rode home to get our car. When he came back, he was extra prepared with ice and Tylenol. Ever my awesome caregiver.

X-rays at the ER revealed that I had not broken my arm. Recommended home care included ice and ibuprofen for my left arm and careful cleaning and bandaging for my abrasion — otherwise known as the 3x5 inch patch of skinless-ness on my right arm.

Nine days after the accident, I still have trouble straightening my left elbow fully. When my arm has been in a neutral position for awhile, it feels painful and stiff when I bend it to do simple things like scratch my face or brush my hair.

As I’m recovering, a few thoughts have crossed my mind.

I’m really glad to be healthy enough to ride my bike. I’m thankful that my RA is quiet enough to allow me to get the exercise and have some fun at the same time. I’m concerned, however, that soft tissue damage around my elbow might lead to RA complications in the future.

So as the pain continues, I am being extra gentle with my elbow, basically treating it as if my RA were flaring. Only soft, gentle movements and absolutely no activity that will put extra strain on the unstable joint or surrounding tissues.

At the same time, I am exercising my patience — rather than my legs or lungs or heart — and allowing my experience with RA to give my body time to heal. Better health will be the outcome.

Thanks for reading!


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