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Can I exercise with inflammatory arthritis?

Can I exercise with inflammatory arthritis?

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Are you becoming less active due to pain - and is that stopping you from acting like your age?

For the past ten years Tom had suffered from low back pain. I could tell it was always on his mind by how he made a conscious effort to keep his back straight while he was sitting in our physio consultation. This is quite common for some people with chronic low back pain as it is commonly thought that if you keep your “core” strong it will protect your back.

Along with low back pain, Tom was recently diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis. He had been experiencing shoulder, hip and elbow pain for the past 2 years due to this.

Tom use to go to the gym and play football, he had slowly started giving his hobbies up over the past few years as he thought they may be contributing to his pain. Tom tried everything - vitamins, pain-killers, and other lighter exercises. But the pain didn’t go away.

By the time I met Tom, he had become accustomed to avoiding any activity that he feared might cause he back to spasm or catch. He had even started sitting to put his shoes on as he was worried bending would hurt his back. At the age of 40, Tom felt he was much, much older.

Our rheumatologist was able to control the pain Tom felt in his joints with medication. By the time Tom saw me, only his back pain was of concern. 

Coming to me, Tom had read online that exercise was good for inflammatory arthritis.

I asked him how he wanted me to help.

“I want to feel normal and feel my age” he replied.

When I examined his back I noticed, although Tom was able to bend over, he’s movement was slow and overly contracting his abdominals. By protecting his back with a rigid core, he was actually causing more harm.

I then helped him set some goals. The goals I suggested were to get him physically capable to lift, squat and run - and also to build his confidence so he would be able to independently exercise and manage flares.

Tom was sceptical at first, but I truly believed with the right information and exercises- even if his diagnosis was late, I knew we could make him active again. The fact is maintaining flexibility and strength is key to keeping joints happy and healthy - and not the very least maintain a healthy body weight. This not only minimises the amount of inflammatory substances in the body, such as fatty tissue, but allows for the medication our rheumatologist prescribed to be as effective as possible.

After a bit of nudging, Tom gave our plan towards becoming “normal” again ago.

Our following sessions were spent discussing anatomy, pain beliefs while progressing exercises designed to improve flexibility, improve his postural control and his confidence to bend and lift.

With lots hard work and an open mind, Tom is now feeling confident, flexible and more “normal” than ever. He is not only bending over to put on his shoes but doing the bay run and learning to deadlift with our exercise physiologist.

Does this sound like you or someone you know?

While no two patients are the same, I’m confident that with the right approach – everyone can feel better.

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