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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 3×5 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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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.


  • patty1
    1 year ago

    Lisa, I hope that you continue to heal!
    I ride in all kinds of weather, sometimes at night or off road, and I’ve unfortunately fallen a number of times. I’ve been lucky, nothing has broken. But – ouch, it hurts, and I really “pay” for this afterwards. Sometimes I’ll switch to an indoor stationary bike during recovery so I can just keep my joints moving a little. Take care, Patty

  • Lisa Emrich author
    1 year ago

    Hi Patty,

    Thanks so much. I’m feeling good and have some beautiful new skin to protect from the sun.

    Earlier this spring, in May, I road 10 miles in the rain for the first time on our local Bike To Work Day. It was not as bad as I had anticipated.

    Using an indoor stationary bike is such a good idea. For several days, I didn’t want to sweat for concern for needing to change bandages more frequently. But keeping those joints fluid is very important.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • KarenG.
    1 year ago

    I love riding my bike, but worry about falling. I have been checking out those adult tricycles. One with gears…. Have you considered that?

  • Lisa Emrich author
    1 year ago

    Hi Karen,
    I have a friend who uses a tricycle with hand pedals (because his legs do not work well) and loves it. I’ve also seen a number of them out on the local trails. Looks like fun. Let me know if you try one and what you think.

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