Does RA make me klutzy?

Does RA Make Me Klutzy?

I’ll be the first to admit – I’ve never been the most coordinated person in the world.

But as of late, I have become totally accident prone.

I’ve had more injuries in the last six years (since I was diagnosed) than I’ve ever had previously in the rest of my life.

So are my joints sensitive and/or weak, and that makes me more injury-prone?

Or have I always been that way, but I feel it more acutely now than I did before?

When I walk on the sidewalk, it feels more like I’m walking on a balance beam or a tightrope.  In reality, I might have more than two feet of space, but I might as well only have a few inches.

I feel off-balance sometimes, like the tiniest uneven spot on the sidewalk is a ripe place to lose my balance and fall.

I’ve never really inquired about whether this is an RA-related issue before, but it feels at least some way related, to me.

One of my first symptoms that I now know was directly related to being sick was severe vertigo.


While I’ve only had a few episodes of full-on vertigo since then, I do feel like my balance is somewhat off.

But again, I’m not sure if it’s simply because I am klutzy and have always been, or if it’s that RA has made me more accident prone.

I’ve twisted and rolled my ankles numerous times, once so severely that I had to wear a boot and be on crutches.

I had never had to use crutches before, and it wasn’t a fun experience.

So is my klutziness a symptom of the disease or a result of it?

Or is it just me, but I notice it now more than I did before because I have pain and stiffness in my joints?

You would think having pain all the time would make it more difficult to diagnose an injury, but in my experience, the pain is a different kind. It’s like acute pain feels different than chronic pain.

So I guess I need to work on my balance. I’m not exactly sure how to do that, but something’s got to give. I can’t constantly be tripping over my own feet for the rest of my life.

Considering how many times I’ve almost fallen, I guess I’m just lucky that I’ve had only one major injury that I can recall and not a whole lot more.

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

Comments

View Comments (34)
  • ktdski
    7 months ago

    I just came across this post and oh.my.gosh! can I relate! I have been suffering with balance problems and vertigo for the past year with no good explanation. I went to physical therapy for it. Since then I’ve rolled my ankle just stepping off a 3 inch step, spraining it. Then I was diagnosed with RA about 3 months ago. I started meds for RA in which I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in over a year, but I can’t help but wonder if everything I’ve experienced, starting with the vertigo, is all related to the RA! The more I’ve researched, the more I find people who I can relate to…it all sucks that everyone is suffering, but relieved to know I’m not going crazy.

  • LoriC
    1 year ago

    I’ve been having extreme balance problems since I was diagnosed a few years ago and I think it has to do with not having the flexibility in the joints that I used to. Sometimes I feel like I am walking sideways instead of straight forward and sometimes I feel like I am shuffling my feet. I have been practicing walking “heel to toe”. There are different exercises that they suggest for people that have neuropathy in their feet to help them maintain their balance. You might want to check them out on the internet or see if your doctor can send you to therapy where they teach you how to do them.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    Thanks for writing LoriC and glad you are working on some specific exercises to help your balance. For some, physical therapy absolutely helps with these issues. In this article one of our contributors who has had RA much of her life and multiple joint replacements writes about the importance of PT, including even learning to walk again: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/the-importance-of-rehab/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • vikingjess
    1 year ago

    I think my extreme klutziness has partly to do with my RA, but check your vitamin B12 levels. Low levels of B12 can do the same thing.

  • BassetMom
    1 year ago

    I was diagnosed with Polymialgia Rheumatical in the fall of 2014, and then RA the following Spring. I haven’t fallen, but I know my balance is off, I stumble at times, and I had to quit riding my bike. My husband was afraid I was going to crash and burn!! So he just got me a recumbent trike which is awesome. I also do Tai Chi which really works on balance and Yoga for seniors. Both have really helped. You might try those and see if they help.

  • ldpnn8
    1 year ago

    Fell hard on Tuesday on my front porch. I was standing and then I was on the cold, hard concrete. My slipper was six feet away in the yard. It is never a question of IF I will fall, but WHEN. Walking on grass without a walker is out of the question. I even feel wobbly when I have to take a few steps on those anti skateboard raised dots that are often on the handicap ramp. Grrrrrr.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    So sorry to hear about your fall Idpnn8. Loss of balance is one of the often overlooked RA dangers. In this article one of our contributors looks at balance issues, with some thoughts on managing balance and staying safe: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/danger-falling-objects/. Also, thought this recent article from another contributor on the benefits of returning to physical therapy, including working on balance, might be useful: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/return-to-physical-therapy/. Wishing you the best and a safe winter. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Olfalatumas
    1 year ago

    Leslie… thank you and all the others for this post. I have always been a bit accident prone, bumps, bruises (which now take for ever to heal) twisted ankles etc. Just in the past two weeks I have started noticing vertigo and accompanying nausea. Last week it plagued me for a couple of days and then just went away. I have been trying to figure out if it is the RA presenting a new symptom, the meds or something else.

    I have to say, again and again, that Yoga has really been my salvation in maintaning my balance and some flexibility. I like a couple of folks who posted here often flare after a workout with weights, but have never had that issue with Yoga. I take a gentle Yoga class, so that helps, but I just can’t emphasize enough how much it helps me in my balance and alleviating the pain in my knees, hands and hips.

    I see my rheumtologist in two days and this is something I want to discuss with her… the dizziness and nausea.

    Thanks again for the post and keep on truckin on.
    Doug

  • CindyR
    1 year ago

    I have RA and fine tissue neuropathy and I’m going to school for exercise physiology (I grad in Dec)so I can help folks (like me) with this very problem. The RA attacks my ligaments and tendons as well as the joints so I am very closely familiar with this happening. ( I fall if I go around a corner too fast or walk too fast) Granted all people are different in how they present, I am not a dr, but I do know several people who have the issue.That said, we have this strange disease that allows us to do things one day and the very next time we try it, we can’t. Exercise is a hard one because we all have to keep active to stay active but sometimes it’s hard to do. Pain is very de-motivational. My spin, try to do something every day. if it hurts too much is there something else you can do that doesn’t? Keeping flexibility and strength is important to support the joints that are painful. Don’t get discouraged, keep trying. It’s hard, but worth it. Swimming and yoga are really good exercise (and yoga helps clear the mind and relax the body) You’ll find as you do more, you’ll feel better over all because of the muscle supporting your joints. Do what you can do, pace yourself.

  • 2Broken
    2 years ago

    I have fallen a few times in the past year, a couple of them were pretty hard, and took me several weeks to recover. I asked my rheumatologist and he said it was caused by RD directly, but by losing muscle, by not exercising as much because of pain, stiffness and exhaustion. My problem is I will feel decent, and will exercise, then after exercising I will feel horrible, and it seems to bring on a flare. I don’t think I am overdoing it when I exercising either, but every time i spike a fever, and my joints swell, and I feel awful!!

  • Diane S
    2 years ago

    OMG I thought it was just me!!

  • elisee55
    3 years ago

    In my readings about RD, I read a really good article about the fact that our muscles and connective tissues are affected as well. In fact, muscle tissue is replaced by some fat, and we actually have less muscle after awhile. So while it may be that our nerves supplying the muscles with movement information, there is less of it to help maintain strength. And we also have a part of our nervous system that supplies proprioception, or feedback to our brain about where our bodies and joints and muscles are in space. If any part of our joints or muscles get damaged, we will need to build back these connections. In the case of ongoing joint damage, we will need to build and maintain our balance, awareness of joints, and also do our best to be as strong as we can be. This is hard when we hurt. My physiotherapist has me doing balance exercises, as well as tiny exercises in my feet to build up my awareness of my muscles in my toes. We are also doing exercises to try and strengthen my feet. My toes, my arches, etc. I was walking unnecessarily directly on the metarsal heads on my feet, causing even more pain. In addition, my balance was off because my gait was off. This is what my physiotherapist told me: If you have poor balance or proprioception, please SLOW DOWN!! It is the best thing to prevent falls. Be aware of your environment and by slowing down, it allows you to do this. Remove mats and other tripping hazards in your house. ALWAYS use the hand rail on stairs. If you need a cane, use it. (But do those exercises to develop better balance – you might not need it then). If your doctor or physiotherapist says you need to use a walker, then use it.

    The other issue we must be aware of with RD, is that once diagnosed, our risk of developing osteoporosis increases. This is low bone density. A fall, when a person has low bone density (I do), can be catastrphic. So, not to be alarmist, all those things people are mentioning to help with balance are important.

    So am I klutzy? Absolutely…

  • Nanci Burns
    3 years ago

    I also have this problem. Vertigo is scary, especially when I’m driving. When I’m flaring, I walk around my house grabbing onto furniture, countertops, whatever, to make sure I don’t fall. I NEVER leave home without my cane, because my right knee buckles when I least expect it.

  • Kathy
    3 years ago

    I haven’t fallen, but it seems my feet get tangled up with each other and I almost trip myself. Don’t know if this is due to my RA, but never experienced this before. Was diagnosed in 2011.

  • Gigi
    4 years ago

    My feet are very bad so if I walk on grass it seems to be not level I have fallen a few times. My ankles give out I just started using a walker witch I do not like to use but, it’s better than breaking a hip or foot. Great story thought I was going crazy!!!

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Gigi, no you are not going crazy. Given the other comments on this post, it happens to the best of us.

  • Beverly
    4 years ago

    This is me, no doubt about it! I have even rolled on my ankle while standing still! In the past few years, especially, I have sprained my ankle, given myself terrible bruises cleaning house, tripped over my very visible vacuum cleaner and hit my chin and jaw on the corner of the dining room table, fallen during yoga class resulting in a hairline sacral fracture, fallen during another class and am currently babying a mammoth goose-egg on the side of my upper femur, almost to the hip! My balance is not so good on two limbs, worse on three limbs, and just awful on one leg. It is truly a miracle that I have not yet actually broken anything. I also had some miserable experiences with vertigo a couple of years ago. I never figure out whether it was the RA or the medicines I take to control RA symptoms. I feel for you!

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Beverly, sorry to hear you have experienced all this, but it makes me feel better knowing I’m not alone in my klutziness.

  • Nanette Alaniz
    4 years ago

    Wow, this article is me to a T, with the exception of the lupus diagnosis. My Dr. diagnosed me with RA about 4 years ago, and previous to that I had some very severe vertigo happening, I’ve also rolled my ankles many times, so much that I am afraid to wear any heals, because of a worse fall, and I had to wear a boot two summers ago because of a horribly sprained ankle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for validating my klutziness!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks for validating mine!

  • alyce j kowal
    4 years ago

    I thought the feedback on klutzy article very informative. The Doctors do not know enough about this disease. That’s my humble opinion and I really like my rheumatologist.

  • alyce j kowal
    4 years ago

    I was diagnosed with RA at age 74. I had thought I had arthritis and it wasn’t until I fractured my foot that my primary care doctor said I had RA. If being clumsy and out of balance had been a sympton I would have had my diagnosis years before.
    I must be most careful not to fall. It is one of my biggest fears. Still I exercise and lift light weights in the hopes it will help.

  • Hermix
    4 years ago

    I definitely recognize this, for me it was one of those little signs telling me there was something bad going on in my body.
    I used to have good motor skills, in sports but also fine motor skills, like in working with electronics. I first started noticing that I found it more difficult to pick up small things, like a tiny screw or something, later on I started dropping plates and cups frequently and started stumbling over furniture. The past few months I got some remarks about walking like a drunk, which is true; I constantly am looking for balance when I’m walking and if I have to turn around suddenly I almost fall over, like the earth is shifting under my feet.
    I don’t have the impression it has got to do with stiff or sore joints, it feels more like a neurological problem because I also have these symptoms during pain free times.
    I went to see a neurologist about this several weeks ago, he did some standard tests and concluded there was nothing wrong with my motor nerves, which didn’t surprise me, since I already had the impression the problem was located in my head. I asked for an EEG but he suggested for me to visit a psychiatrist! Off course I never went back there so I have to keep guessing if I’m right about this.

  • Neva
    1 year ago

    I have all those symptoms you described Hermix. I am currently getting a 4th MRI. My rheumatologist thinks I may have me. Can you tell me what and if you have finally received a diagnosis. I am so tired if not knowing what is wrong.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    I really wish there was more understanding by doctors in this regard. I did have some simple neurological tests awhile back, but they were normal, like yours.

  • Anita
    4 years ago

    You’re not along in this. I didn’t notice it much in the first 25 years or so, but the past 10 years have shown an increase in clumsiness. It has kind of creeped up on me slowly, but when I look at it, there is definitely a huge increase in klutz moments.

    I think part of it is that the joints have more damage and are less stable — sometimes the knee wants to keep bending, even when I don’t want it to 🙂

    Another large part is that I can’t recover or compensate for tripping or missteps as quickly any more, so that makes me more likely to fall. Since the joints have lost some range of motion, I can’t always move them in ways that would prevent falls. I find I’m also more cautious and may overcompensate a bit, too. I started using a cane a few years ago and it has made a huge difference. I doubted it at first, but it really has helped.

  • Wren moderator
    4 years ago

    I’ve certainly felt more unsteady on my feet since I’ve had RA. My ankles aren’t as strong as they once were, and walking on uneven ground is always dicey.

    As for balance: if you see a physical therapist, ask about exercises that will help you balance better. Or google “exercises for balance.” Lots will come up, and perhaps they’ll help.

    And don’t feel alone, Leslie. So MANY of us face these issues every day. Sometimes it just amazes me.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks, Wren!

  • Melinda Lowery
    4 years ago

    I too am more prone to fall since RA. My physical therapist gave me some advice that has really helped me. Use a cane! I don’t feel older with it and it has saved me many falls.
    I still have to be careful in the house and need to be careful not to overreach. I did that to reach a shelf in my closet. I was able to catch myself by grabbing my bedside stand, saving me from a nasty fall. I am beginning to think that maybe I need the cane in the house too. I have started to use my mom’s walker when I walk the dog.
    Please get your eyes checked. I started to see halos around lights. I have chronic dry eye and narrow angle disease. I have worn glasses since I was 6, I am 58 now and I get regular check ups, but all of this just happened suddenly.
    I can relate, I seem to get worse with all of the “little” things that I used to do with ease.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Good tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kelly
    4 years ago

    I also have noticed that I am more prone to being unbalanced.. I noticed it back before I was finally diagnosed with RA.. I can relate with feeling like your walking on a tightrope.. Most days I feel this way.. Kind of like the sidewalk is going to give away..Stairs are another problem.. I haven’t fallen yet, but do worry about it especially when I am outdoors. I have often wondered if the RA is affecting my eyes..

  • Veda Logan
    3 years ago

    Wow! I didn’t know so many other people have/had the same problem. I’ve had RA for over 15 years. For the first few years I still did long-distance walking, but had to stop because of my hips and feet. Since then, I have had alot of problems with balance. Sometimes it seems I am tripping over my own feet. I especially have to be careful on stairs, which I don’t do often, because I catch my foot on the carpet. It all seems so clumsy but was not like this years before. Now, I also have trouble with my eyes! The combination is not fun and I have to really be careful.

  • Teresa Perret
    4 years ago

    I have always been clumsy, however since last Christmas I’ve had 2 catastrophic falls that have resulted in serious injury and I would like to know what I can do to make that stop. I was diagnosed with RA about 18 years ago, but it’s been quite a bit worse the last 2 1/2 when Enbrel failed me and I’ve failed every biologic I’ve tried since then. And just to make it fun, we live in a wonderful house on a hill that you can’t get into without going up some kind of stairs.

    Two days after last Christmas I rolled off my shoe on the front steps outside and broke both of the bones of my left leg at the ankle. I have 2 screws holding the bottom of my tibia back on and my fibula was so badly broken they had to use a plate and 7 screws to put it back together again. I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on my left leg for 8 weeks and was forced to hopping or a wheelchair. Months later that resulted in serious aggravation of the synovial swelling in my right hip joint and I had to have a steroid shot under x-ray to get that under control.

    Then a month ago I was going down the steps in the mud room to go to the garage, on my way go to work and next thing I knew I was pitching forward, down 4 steps to the next landing. I banged my left leg (again the left!) so hard that I got a huge gouge in my shin and broke the top of my fibula. Now I’m going to a wound care center and wearing a negative pressure device because the wound is too deep to heal on its own, and the broken tibia hurts, but they don’t do anything about it because it’s not weight bearing and has to just heal. I now call my left leg FrankenLeg and told the doctor at the wound center that my shin looks like Halloween!

    I wear orthotics in my shoes and have an appointment to see the physical therapist who made them to see if he can stablize them or something, but my friends are suggesting an elevator or bubble wrap as the only solutions for me!

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Teresa, you have certainly been through a lot and I am sorry to hear that you have had falls that have been so catastrophic. I am not sure why so many of us deal with the clumsiness issue. Not sure if it is disease related exactly or what.

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