Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) usually face hard times dealing with limited range of motion (due to deformed joints) and joint pain that often comes when they move. Some of them may prefer to be less active because of those reasons. However, they should know that inactivity can make everything worse. Inactivity decreases muscle strength and joint flexibility.

pool exerciseExercising can help RA patients feel better. In fact, exercise is one of the best natural remedies for the disease. Regular exercises can help reduce joint stiffness, build muscle, and boost overall fitness. Though exercise does not completely cure the disease, it can reduce the symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. High-impact exercise is not recommended because it can put excess stress on the joints. Do not forget to consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. You may also consider a personal trainer.

Here are some simple exercises that you can do at home:

  • Stretch your fingers. Close your fingers, making a fist. Then, open and extend the fingers as straight as possible. Repeat this exercise, gradually increasing up to 20 times, twice daily. To further increase strength, squeeze a foam or sponge ball about the size of a tennis ball. Release and extend the fingers.
  • Keep the flexibility of your wrists. Sit at a table. Put your left forearm on the table and let your left hand hang over the edge of the table. Using your right hand, grab the fingers of your left hand and bend your left hand at the wrist, slowly moving it up and then down as far as possible without pain. Repeat with the opposite hand. Increase up to 20 repetitions, twice daily.
  • Hip rotation. Sit or lie on your back on the floor or on a bed, feet slightly apart. With your legs and knees straight, turn your knees in toward each other and touch the toes of your feet together, holding for 5 seconds. Now turn the legs and knees out, and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this, gradually increasing up to five, 10, and then 20 repetitions, twice daily.
  • Get flexible feet. Facing the wall, place palms flat on the wall, one foot forward, and one foot back. Leaving your heels on the floor, lean forward. As you do so, feel the pull in the calf of your back leg and the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle. Hold for 30 seconds. Do three repetitions. Then reverse the position of your legs and repeat.
  • Swimming. Swimming is a great way to exercise without putting excess stress on your joints. Start slowly with just a few minutes in a heated pool. Use a kickboard when you first start to get used to moving in the water. Gradually build to a goal of swimming 30 minutes at a time. Increase physical activity with each exercise period until you reach your goal time.
  • Isometric chest press. When regular strength training is painful on the joints, isometric exercise is another way to build muscle. Isometrics involve tensing the muscle without any visible movement. With your arms at chest level, press the palms of your hands together as hard as you can. Hold the press for 5 seconds; then rest for 5 seconds. Do another 5 second press and a 5 second rest. Do 5 repetitions. Slowly build up to holding the press for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. If this exercise hurts your joints, ask a trainer to show you another isometric chest exercise.


(Source: webmd.com)

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