Maintaining Independence With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Independence is an important and prized part of life. When everything is going smoothly, most people wouldn’t give self-care or their degree of mobility a second thought, but that can change quickly with the onset of a chronic illness.
Rheumatoid arthritis is just such a condition, and without the proper response and good, consistent management, RA can threaten your independence – and ultimately, your identity.
Fortunately, you have more control over your illness than you might imagine. Consistency and attention are two important aspects of any successful RA treatment plan; if you can stick with a good self-care strategy and engage with your support network, you can almost certainly improve and maintain your level of independence.
Stay Mobile, Stay Independent
Since RA is an aggressive disease, it calls for an aggressive treatment plan. Disease-modifying drugs are important to slow the progression of joint damage, and painkillers will help you manage the day-to-day discomforts. But juggling RA treatment, symptoms and daily responsibilities can be exhausting, and that fatigue can lead to inactivity. Unfortunately, the less active you are, the less able you become.
Physical therapy, regular movement, and general fitness is integral to an RA treatment plan. Using several different methods, you can keep up your energy, build range of motion, and continue to enjoy a fulfilling routine.
- Physical therapy. Your physiotherapist is a critical part of your RA management plan, and you should look to them for guidance and knowledge to keep fit. They will have a thorough knowledge of joint health, and what you can and should do with your body. They can teach you everything from stretches for better range of motion to energy conservation techniques, and will work with you to modify exercises as your health demands.
- Occupational therapy. Along with your physical therapist, an occupational therapist can be a life coach, mentor, and medical resource. The primary aims of occupational therapy are to help maintain everyday skills for independent living and to develop and teach patients good coping strategies.
- Daily exercise. When fatigue gets the better of you, physical exercise can seem like a ridiculous idea. However, the more often you can perform mild to moderate activity, the more efficient your musculoskeletal system becomes. As you strengthen your muscles, your joints can bear less of the strain, and losing weight can further relieve pressure on painful sites, like the hips, knees and ankles.
Next page: two more tips for staying mobile and independent, plus some tools and tricks to help you out.