How to Manage Arthritis with Exercise

How to Manage Arthritis with Exercise

There was a time when doctors told arthritis patients to rest their joints and avoid exercise. These days, doctors agree unanimously that being active can help patients to minimize pain and increase function. Additionally, mobility, mood and quality of life can be improved through activity for people living with arthritis conditions.

People with arthritis are often reluctant to exercise because they fear they could injure themselves through activity. If this is a concern, patients can work with physical therapists and trainers to ease fears and to learn to exercise safely.

Benefits of Exercise for Arthritis Patients

Exercise offers double benefits for arthritis patients. It can help to improve overall health, reduce the risk of disease and help to manage arthritis pain. People with arthritis who exercise regularly can expect less pain, increase in joint strength, better range of motion, improved function, and delay in disease progression.

For years, scientists have been interested in finding out how exercise helps joints affected by arthritis. Research has revealed that exercise can strengthen the muscles around the joints and help to them to stay flexible. Flexible muscles can support and stabilize joints much better than weak muscles do. Further, stronger muscles can help to relieve arthritis pain and prevent future pain if patients are staying active. Exercise can also relax stiff joints and increase range of motion. Additionally, exercise accelerates heart rate and breathing and also promotes the release of brain chemicals to help the body reduce inflammation and foster good mental and emotional health.

What Types of Exercise Are Best for Arthritis?

Doctors recommend that arthritis patients have a balanced workout program that includes range of motion exercises, muscle strength training, and endurance exercises. Before you begin any exercise program, it is best to check with your doctor — especially if you have not exercised before, are dealing with high levels of pain, or if you have had a surgical procedure.

Range of Motion Exercises. For most people with arthritis, range of motion exercises offer the most benefit. They involve stretching exercises that can help to minimize joint stiffness and increase range of motion in affected joints.

Muscle strength training. Strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights, can help to increase muscle strength. Strong muscles can help to support and protect your joints. Lifting weights can also help arthritis-affected joints to function better and minimize stiffness and pain.

Endurance Exercises. Endurance exercises increase breathing and heart rate for a period of time. Walking, swimming, dancing, jogging and even yard work are all examples of endurance exercises. You should build endurance up slowly, starting with five-minute increments and moving up to at least 30 minutes per day.

Some Things to Consider Before You Start

It is always important to listen to your body and not push yourself because doing so could lead to injury. Keep the following in mind:

• Always warm up before you begin exercising. Try stretching and walking for at least five to 10 minutes.

• Start slow and increase your activity slowly.

• Seek the advice of a professional and ask that person to help you to set rules to follow as you work out and progress.

• Listen to your body. If you are in pain, rest and do not exercise during a period of flare-up.

How to Stay Motivated

Once you have started exercising, you want to continue being active on a regular basis to produce the best results. Here are some ways to stay motivated:

• Make exercise a daily thing. When it becomes as routine as brushing your teeth, you are less likely to become unmotivated and stop.

• Make sure that exercise is easy and safe.

• Remember, exercise can be interesting, fun and social when you enlist friends and family to participate.

• Seize every opportunity to be active. Park your car farther away so you can walk, or walk instead of drive if your destination is nearby. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or stretch muscles often when you are working at your desk.

It is important to be as active as you can. Think of exercise as something you are doing for yourself so that you feel secure, focused and grounded. This is also the one time you can be alone to think freely and to be one with your mind, body and soul.

Originally posted at Arthritis Connect.

Fibromyalgia Patients Benefit from Exercise

Studies show movement keeps muscles strong and flexible

Fibromyalgia Patients Benefit from Exercise

There was a time when most doctors believed that exercise would worsen fibromyalgia pain or even fast track the disease. Doctors would advise patients that they needed rest rather than activity. Nowadays, doctors inform fibromyalgia patients that they can benefit from low impact activity and that these exercises are safe and easy.

The Benefits of Exercise

Newer studies have shown that exercise is vital to keeping muscles strong and flexible, maintaining weight and helping you to keep an active lifestyle. Moreover, exercise can help fibromyalgia patients to have some control over fibromyalgia symptoms and the amount of pain they feel.

If you are living with fibromyalgia pain, exercise is not something you want to think about. However, exercise can offer you the symptom relief you need in order to maintain control of your life and your disease. Low-impact exercises — such as walking, stretching, swimming and yoga — can help you stay fit and to manage the pain and symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.

Get Started and Stay Motivated

Where do you begin? Here some strategies to help you to get started and to help you stay motivated as you adapt exercise into your fibromyalgia treatment plan.

Acknowledge that exercise helps, not hurts. Fibromyalgia pain can be debilitating and uncomfortable. The idea of exercising can seem daunting, but acknowledging that exercise can offer countless benefits can make getting started seem less intense. Exercise can help fibromyalgia patients to control weight, reduce pain, sleep better, and increase mobility and it can also guard against other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Start slowly. To keep from getting discouraged and to keep you from being overwhelmed, try a slow and gentle approach to exercise. You can change your activity level over time and as you gain results. Some low impact exercises that you can start with include walking, yoga, golf and swimming.

Listen to your body. At first, you may experience pain and soreness after exercise. Some muscle soreness is normal but sharp pain is a sign that you have overworked muscles. Be sure to stretch and warm up before physical activity and do not overwork yourself. You may want to start exercising at a very low level such as five to 10 minutes per day. You can then increase your activity gradually until you are at about 45 to 60 minutes per day.

Move every day. To get the most benefit from exercise, you should be active daily. The best daily options for exercising include walking and making use of exercise equipment. You can go swimming or try biking, yoga or running. It is important to find something that you actually enjoy doing. Further, you should take every opportunity to be active. Go for a walk after dinner, play a sport with your kids, or to spend the day playing golf.

Be patient. Feeling pain may tempt you to just want to sit down, be motionless and do nothing. However, you will accomplish more and make more of a difference in the quality of your life through movement. Getting better with exercise takes time and hard work. Allow yourself the time to become active because once you do, you will find there is a lot you can actually accomplish.

Find Out What Works For You

Remember that each of us is different. Setting an exercise plan depends on your age and the severity of your symptoms and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Always listen to your body and find ways to fine tune your exercise routine until you find what works for you so that you continue to stay active and motivated. The end result is that you will be healthier, stronger and in less pain.

Orginally Published at Fibromyaliga Connect.

How to Move Toward Acceptance of Chronic Illness

Accepting your circumstances doesn’t mean giving up

How to Move Toward Acceptance of Chronic Illness

When we accept something, we agree to experience a situation or follow through with a process — even if it’s negative or uncomfortable — without trying to alter it or walk away from it. Acceptance is one of the toughest things a person must do, but oftentimes it is the only option available. Whether we are trying to accept the loss of a loved one, a move to new city, a divorce, or that pain and sickness are a part of our lives, acceptance can be a difficult undertaking.

My Experience with Acceptance

I was diagnosed in 2008 with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia. My diagnoses felt like a death sentence and the information available on the Internet made me afraid that I would be disabled within a few years’ time. I knew that without accepting and acknowledging my situation now that I was sick, I could not have a full and productive life. Nevertheless, admitting that I was chronically ill was a difficult task because I feared that acceptance meant I was giving up.

I eventually did give into the idea of acceptance, but I didn’t give up. I decided to arm myself with factual information about how to best live alongside my diseases. Moreover, I found that my energy was better spent at seeking resources and support. With time, I understood that rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia were the same as any other struggle I had faced in my life and because of my previous experience, this new endeavor would be easier to bear. Further, I chose to perceive my illnesses as simply another unique attribute of the person that I was. Ultimately, I acknowledged that while I could not control my circumstance, I had power over my response.

Accepting That You Are Chronically Ill

Accepting that you are chronically ill does not mean you give into your illness. It means that you are willing to take control of your life in the way it is now and you acknowledge that your life cannot be the way it was prior to being diagnosed. It means you are willing to seize the opportunity to see past your limitations rather than to dwell on them. Once you decide that you want your experience to be positive, acceptance becomes about choosing to be optimistic, taking the time to educate yourself and loved ones, seeking support and guidance, and not worrying about an unknown future.

Choose optimism. Coming to terms with being chronically ill requires recognizing the difference between a challenging life and one that is over. Chronic illness is long term, not terminal. Make a choice to be optimistic for yourself and for those who love you.

Educate yourself and others. Taking the time to educate yourself about your condition can help you to understand what limitations your disease may pose and what things you can do to have a productive life. Educating loved ones can resolve misunderstandings and ease coping difficulties for all parties. Talk about expectations and attitudes so that you can help loved ones to understand what living with chronic illness is like for you and how they can help.

Find support. Reach out to others dealing with similar diseases to yours. Ask them about their experiences and find out how they have been able to live successfully despite the constraints of chronic disease. Invite them to share their positive experiences and also their negative ones. Inquire about limitations they have overcome and be open to sharing your experiences and anxieties.

Don’t worry about the future. None of us can look into a crystal ball and have a guaranteed answer to what the future holds. Make the choice to look to the future with ambition, hope, and an upbeat attitude. Your disease may have its effects on your body, but it will never own your mind and spirit. You are free to live and dream in any way that you choose.

Choosing Acceptance Over Denial

Chronic illness is unpredictable and life-altering, but choosing acceptance over denial will keep you from compromising your need for treatment, therapy and rest. Focus your energy on finding ways to adapt to the moments when your disease wreaks havoc on your life. Make the choice to be flexible through the unpredictability and understand that you cannot will your life back to what it was before your diagnosis. Appreciate all the things you can control rather than the ones you cannot. Live your life one day at a time and do not to allow chronic illness to prevent you from embracing all life has to offer.

Originally posted at Fibromyalgia Connect.


How to Manage Chronic Illness in the Workplace

Communication with your boss and coworkers is vital

How to Manage Chronic Illness in the Workplace

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there are more than 133 million Americans living with at least one chronic illness. The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines a chronic illness is a condition that is long term, limits your activity and may require ongoing care. At least 80 percent of the workforce lives with chronic illness, according to the 2009 Almanac of Chronic Disease. Medical advances have allowed individuals with chronic diseases to enjoy productive lives and stay employed longer, possibly into retirement age.

Chronic Illnesses Pose Challenges In the Workplace

As chronically ill individuals continue to work, they will face more challenges than their healthier counterparts. People living with a chronic illness offer a unique problem for employers. This is because chronically ill employees generally have conditions that are unpredictable and, unlike a virus or injury, a chronic disease can be frequent and have invisible symptoms.

When employees disclose to their employers that they have a chronic illness — such as rheumatoid arthritis — questions can arise to whether they can continue to be productive employees. This is because the employee can awake to extreme fatigue, brain fog and pain in several joints. The challenges that this employee and his employer face include the employee feeling poorly, not getting work done or not being able to show up to work altogether. Further, the employee can find himself having to explain why he is feeling lousy, why he was not able to show up or arrive on time. For the employee, having these types of conversations with supervisors and coworkers can be difficult, as is explaining how a specific chronic illness affects a person. The employee does not want to feel unproductive or to be viewed as unable to perform the functions of the job.

Protecting Your Job When You Have a Chronic Illness

While employees cannot predict or control periods of disease activity, there is plenty they can do to protect their jobs. When it comes to disclosure of a chronic illness, it is necessary to look at whether a condition requires specific accommodations. This can include details such a frequent breaks, a modified work schedule for appointments, the need to come in later or even to take time off to manage and recover during periods of high disease activity. If an employee finds that accommodations are necessary, then he should talk to human resources about the options that are available to staying on the job and continuing to be a valuable employee. It is important to note that information shared with the employer about a worker’s health condition is strictly confidential.

Support from colleagues is vital for chronically ill employees to cope and to meet the requirements of their jobs. It is also helpful to educate supervisors and colleagues on how they can respond if an emergency arises, such as a possible seizure in an individual with epilepsy. People with chronic conditions should be aware that not everyone in their workplace is open to understanding their obstacles. Therefore, only share this information with coworkers you can depend on.

Becoming the Norm?

Chronic illnesses have become the norm in the today’s ever-changing workforce due to increased awareness that people with chronic diseases can be just as productive as their healthy colleagues. Moreover, work environments are more supportive and flexible than they have been in past to people living with chronic diseases. This favorable atmosphere has allowed chronically ill employees to feel appreciated and confident as they continue to work and look forward to future success.

Originally posted at Arthritis Connect.