Arthritic Feet -Self Care Series

We, Arthritic Warriors, are well aware of our feet aches!! It’s quite common for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis to first appear in the feet, the forefoot, back of the feet, and ankles, and so on…in the earlier days of my diagnosis my toe would be particularly painful when I tried to lift it or when walking, but the pain did occur when at rest in too especially during severe flare-up stages.

Sometimes I used to feel it so stiff and loss of movement, which caused it an inability to bend the big toe upwards, which was so painful and made it difficult to walk. I used to get swelling and inflammation around the toe and the joint. Somedays I would observe a bump too like a bunion or callus around.

I also observed that I started to walk on the outside of my foot, causing pain in the ball of the foot. We need to listen and balance our body and its movements accordingly…

Our feet are a great indicator of health. They can tell us all kinds of things that could be wrong, but we just need to know how to listen to them. It’s also important to understand that heel pain may be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis itself. In some cases, pain in the heel, ankle, or ball of the foot can be early indicators of this autoimmune disorder.

Simple daily exercises I try and do:

Knead the balls of my feet as well as my toes, starting at the top and working my way down to the base.

Apply heat. Heat relaxes my joints and muscles and relieves any pain I have. My heat treatments — warm squeezed towels, hot packs, or a shower, and I apply it for about 20 minutes.

Move gently. Move my joints gently at first to warm up. You might begin with range-of-motion exercises for five to 10 minutes before I move on to strengthening exercises.

Go slowly. Exercise with slow and easy movements. If I feel pain, I take a break.

Salt Soaks. I sometimes soaking them in magnesium-rich Epsom salt baths.

Walk barefoot around the house on days my feet are pain-free…so to give ample acupressure at the right points!

My Foot Fix: Rest, ice, compress, and elevate the toe.

It’s a common acronym known as RICE. Icing it and compressing the inflamed area can help tamp down on swelling and eases pain.

I trust my instincts and don’t exert more energy than I think my joints can handle. I take it easy and slowly increase my exercise length and intensity as I progress.

There is one rule, above all others, for a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet…….Robert Jordan

 

 

 

Covid Times: Physical Movements through Household Chores with Arthritis

The ongoing COVID-19 situation has flipped my daily routine but has also had an unforeseen positive impact on my physical well-being mostly in terms of my mobility!

It’s not clear yet whether having arthritis makes you more susceptible. What we are told and you read it all over that – much like seasonal flu – older adults and people with autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic conditions may be more likely to get seriously sick if they do become infected, so it’s important to take suitable precautions.

The main concern isn’t the virus itself, but secondary bacterial infection and other complications that may arise when your body’s defenses are in a weakened state.

Earlier I had a lot of outdoor mobility, my average step count is down by 90% by not commuting to work/ around my offices/ by not leaving my house as much as I might normally do by leading my normal life. The benefits of the passive house hold exercise we do in today’s times is not being realized.

With the onset of Covid  19 and being immunity compromised life has changed as I have started working from home. It’s frustrating not being able to go back to normal and see people. I’m generally at home, but it’s juxtaposed with the slight fear of having to go back when it doesn’t always feel safe. It’s not so much the arthritis, it’s the medications that I’m on that make me feel more vulnerable. My immune system is more compromised because of them, but no regrets as I have found a new side of me.

During lockdown I had do away with all outsourced house help after years and got into the daily grind myself. Was not too sure how long I could stretch but amazingly I have done well. Though household chores are not usually fun for anyone, they can be especially difficult for those suffering from arthritis pain. Cleaning and other chores can be hard on your joints as it requires bending, reaching and grabbing.

I have managed to stay active…by planning my daily chores. I look to these activities as various form of exercises…my daily quota of the required exercise and movement is done by default. So that’s a blessing in disguise!

I have managed to get my strength and flexibility exercises adapted from my normal home activities. I ask for help whenever I need it from my daughter or husband.

Although it may take some effort to create and adjust to new fitness routines, my regular household physical activity has helped me to positively optimize my health and well-being during the current coronavirus pandemic. Yes, the Covid 19 situation has led us to self-isolate and remain indoors as much as possible, however during this time, it is important that people living with arthritis continue to self-manage their condition in order to reduce any painful symptoms and stay positive.

Post COVID-19 there is a new thought process: When there is no clarity, maybe we need to just embrace the fact that we need to look at things differently, think differently and act differently.

Life is like riding a bicycle…to keep your balance …you must keep moving !…Albert Einstein

 

MANAGE YOUR MOBILITY INDULGE IN POSITIVE MOVEMENTS- MOVE YOUR BODY

 

I am always talking of positivism and my website also is named as RA Positive Hub!

I totally believe yes Positive Mindset but also a more powerful concept alongside is Positive Movements.

Arthritic Warriors experience lack of bodily movements due to chronic pain. Giving in to arthritis pain only make things worse.

Aches and pains of arthritis can slow you down and make you think that moving around is a bad idea. But regular exercise is actually one of the best medicines for arthritis.

Yes, we do get our flare up and so on but we need to win over our thoughts of not pushing ourselves as we will feel pain restricts movement and it will be more painful. Getting started is tough for people with arthritis, no doubt about it, but once you become consistent, exercise is self-reinforcing, because it gets easier, you lose weight, you gain strength, you experience less pain, and you feel better emotionally and the ultimate… you experience your freedom of movement!

I agree, pain is a pain…but I always try and get out of my comfort zone and try and maneuver myself slowly and listen to my body…and behold I experience a lot of freedom and control on myself. This according to me is my priceless personal growth …I am in a situation where I am just not managing my pain but driving myself through the tough times.

I strongly believe Arthritis can not own you or restrict you, you need to overcome with sheer determination and perseverance. Lot of effort goes into getting oneself into this driving mode but let me tell you its worth all the effort and patience as eventually its you who is the winner!

I have observed over the years that yes, I cannot micromanage every small sensation or feeling but I can drive it on a larger scale. Getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself positively to make small movements independently in a radius I can manage and handle. Slow baby steps towards this freedom of movement is the ultimate joy we as Arthritic Warriors can experience…

No matter what mediums you use or how careful you are, however, occasional setbacks remain likely, don’t push through pain, but don’t stop, either, learn how to balance gentle exercise with rest; there’s value to taking breaks and learning where your limits are regarding pain.

So, lets push our overall mindset limitations joyfully!

,

Today -21st June is International Yoga Day

I have been practicing yoga for the last 15 years and it has helped me to focus on my breathing and building awareness of my mind-body connection.

Over the years I have seen that in addition to the physical benefits, yoga has reduced my stress and anxiety levels through the breathing exercises and meditation. A certain amount of mental clarity and stillness comes across and the mood improvements has surely assisted me in coping my RA.

I remember my early specialized yoga practitioners used to mention something to this extent that Yoga facilitates the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms mediated through a variety of downstream pathways and bring about natural immunological tolerance. I never understood the holistic underlying meaning beneath these statements those days but looking back today it does have its roots in its efficacy!

The gentle yoga exercises do help us to focus on our body’s natural tendency to heal itself and find balance.

I suggest discussing yoga with your doctor before giving it a try and then, once you get started, always listen to your body. If it feels like a stretch, that is a good thing, but if it hurts, the pose may not be right for you.

In my beginner’s class and sometimes till date, I always use props such as blocks, pillows or rolled up towels whenever I need support.

No matter what type of yoga you decide to try, I would say it is better to begin with a qualified practitioner. Save the yoga videos for later date, when you’re more confident with your yoga practice. If possible, find an instructor who has experience working with people with chronic conditions like arthritis.

To summarize I would say that socializing is a component of group yoga practices that has motivated me to seek out yoga classes, and currently this aspect of my yoga classes has been particularly beneficial to me.

The face-to-face socializing yoga class, in addition to reducing pain and enhancing my mobility, has always offered me a mood-boosting camaraderie!

Due to COVID – 19 pandemic, most yoga practitioners around the world have shut down the yoga studios and turned to limited home practices and online yoga classes. Hence, International Yoga Day 2020 mostly will be celebrated through digital media all over the globe due to the pandemic and lock-down imposed.

Happy Yoga Day to you and all my Dancing Yogis out there !

“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness” – Sakyong Mipham

Embrace the pace of your own journey!

In my previous post, I had mentioned that I will share my pacing tool kits and thought process which I use to combat my RA pain and fatigue.

Here you go…

The minute I get up in the morning, I can visually gauge my days activities based on the early morning fatigue and pain levels if any and resort to having an internal dialogue (self-talk) and see the expectations !..it might seem strange to some but the more you listen to your inward self the more one is in control and you can navigate accordingly.

In Pacing I find the right balance of my day’s activities and rest for my RA condition. I must admit that with pacing, I have learnt to live my life according to a tentative plan rather than in response to the symptoms, thereby I feel I have a sense of managing RA rather than RA controlling me.

However, Pacing is the key….it depends how I pull the gears and pace the day.

Basically, its energy conservation methodology…based on listening to your body and gut feel.

My Planning & Thought Process;

Once I visually plan and allocate, on execution I start pacing myself. I start doing the activities and take small breaks in between.

I avoid rushing any tasks and drive it at my own pace… Sometimes I avoid doing the bed as soon as I get up …or delay the laundry…I ask myself …is it the end of the world if I do not do it at that very moment?  No…according to me .. it is not!

Is anyone going to come for inspection   …No…definitely not …so I pace it at my convenience.

Pacing is difficult…it takes discipline. It takes self-control. Pacing is an art which is honed over a period of time rather than a science; I just try to be creative and pace myself.

If I feel I cannot do it, I don’t push myself too much…I am not competing with anyone. I am quite assertive in this area and do not have any guilt pangs…asking for help if its needed.

Pacing myself through activities:

It is like an activity switching tool… I have found keeps my concentration and energy levels intact, I break my activities like if I need to cook , I will cut, chop take a break watch a you tube talk show and go back to continuing cooking and again go and do some reading/writing/office work , rest and finally return to complete the final steps. This way my physical movements are not overworked and I maintain my pace and able to complete my other to do lists through the day. Activity switching among social, physical and mental activities is a super blend combo which has become a part and parcel of my life. A point to be noted..on non flareup days ..I do not over do things…

Over time I have realized that although the size of my teaspoons is normal with pacing, I manage to collect more space in those same spoons and these normal tea spoons literally feel like huge table spoons! That is my biggest takeaway from my PACING tool!

Seeking and honoring my limits in contrast has only expanded my activity levels and in a position to flatten the roller coaster ride that RA brings along with it!

Life is . . . not about counting the losses and the lost expectations, but rather swimming and pacing ourselves, with as much grace as can be mustered, in the joy of all of it… let me admit, this thought process is easy said than done. If I do not implement it in my daily life no one will implement it for me…so here I am advocating what I do as an RA Warrior!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pursed Lips Breathing Exercise

The technique requires a person to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth at a slow controlled flow.

Basic Step-By-Step process:

  • Relax your neck and shoulders.
  • Inhale slowly through the nostrils for two seconds (keep your mouth closed), a deep breath is unnecessary a normal breath will do just fine.
  • Exhale through the mouth for four seconds (the extended time is the key). When exhaling, pucker your mouth as if giving a kiss.
  • While breathing out, keep a slow and steady breath; don’t breathe out hard.

Benefits of Pursed Lips Breathing

The Pursed Lips Breathing method offers significant mental and physical benefits. For example, it can help in the following ways:

Releases trapped air in the lungs

Keeps the airways open longer and eases breathing

Prolongs exhalation to slow the breathing rate

Improves breathing patterns by moving old air out of the lungs and allowing new air to enter

Relieves shortness of breath

Promotes relaxation…

You can practice this exercise through the day by simply breathing in through your nose followed by breathing out through your mouth, while your lips are pursed, for twice as long as you breathed in.

Suggest try it my fellow arthritic warriors , these are simple exercises and feel the difference!

 

Breathing Exercises – Improve Lung Functionality in these tough times

We as Arthritic Warriors are aware building & maintaining muscles can be only done through our regular exercise regime.

This week we just concentrate on LUNG HEALTH !

Our prime concentration should be on the muscles in the neck, chest and the diaphragm. The part between the ribs is another vital area.

Regular exercise pattern will keep our lung health at its optimum peak.

Overall Oxygen delivery levels get more efficient.

I have been practicing breathing exercise for the last 15 years… and I clearly remember my trainers spelling this loud and clear …Out with the old, stale air and in with new fresh air.

That’s the theme of the two most useful breathing exercises—pursed lip breathing and belly breathing which I have been practicing … will discuss in detail in my next update…

Why Breathing Exercises Can Help Arthritic Warriors!

Around eighty percent of inhaling and exhaling is done by our diaphragm. We are all aware the diaphragm is a thin skeletal muscle that sits at the base of the chest and separates the abdomen from the chest.

When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward. This creates more space in your chest cavity, allowing the lungs to expand. When you exhale, the opposite happens — your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward in the chest cavity.

When you are ill with an ailment that impacts the lungs, this elasticity can be affected. Often, air is not fully expelled in this case and stale air builds up in the lungs leaving less room for the diaphragm to contract and bring in fresh oxygen. The body will attempt to compensate by using other muscle groups, but this can only do so much and overall oxygen levels decrease.

Hence, we as Arthritic Warriors need to indulge ourselves in regular breathing exercises which can greatly assist in helping lungs shift the accumulated stale air, increasing oxygen levels and ensuring the diaphragm can work efficiently.

Next update will be on the common two-tier breathing approach …Watch out!

KEEP MOVING, TO STAY A STEP AHEAD OF ARTHRITIS.

There are many different forms of exercise to choose from. The type that is best for you will depend on your personal preference, the severity of your symptoms and whether or not you have other musculoskeletal conditions or health issues.

If you aren’t sure which exercises are suitable for you, be guided by your doctor or other health professional, such as a physiotherapist

Getting started is tough for people with arthritis, no doubt about it. But once you become consistent, exercise is self-reinforcing, because it gets easier, you lose weight, you gain strength, you experience less pain, and you feel better emotionally.

Aim to do some form of exercise every day. The exercises you choose should ideally help with:

Flexibility – stretching and range of movement exercises help maintain or improve the flexibility of your joints and nearby muscles. They will help keep your joints moving properly and ease joint stiffness.

Strength – to build muscle strength, provide stability to your joints and improve your ability to perform daily tasks

Overall fitness – exercise that gets you moving and increases your heart rate (such as walking, swimming and cycling) will help improve the health of your heart and lungs (cardiovascular system).

Many types of exercise can help with flexibility, strength and overall fitness at the same time, including:

  • swimming or water exercise classes
  • taichi,
  • walking
  • chair exercises
  • low-impact aerobics,
  • strength training and
  • dancing

The exercise you choose should be something you enjoy and you’re committed to doing. Consider exercising with friends, or in a group or a team environment if you find it difficult to get motivated. I have been personally doing these group classes for the last 5 years and look forward to each one of them.

Sometimes it can be difficult to exercise due to pain. An inflamed, hot or painful joint needs rest, but too little exercise can cause muscle weakness, pain and stiffness. It’s important to find the right balance of rest and exercise.

The trick to not losing quality of life, it is to find a substitute for the activities limited by arthritis. What can you do? Walk, swim, walk in water — anything that gets you moving. The bottom line: As we get older, if we don’t get up and move around as much as we can, then we soon won’t be able to move at all.

If you’re not sure what the right balance is for you, talk with your doctor, physiotherapist for some advice… but keep moving!

 

,

Points to remember about Arthritis – Part 2

 

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the world. It is not a single disease, but a grouping of conditions that affect joint pain.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.  While arthritis can affect both men and women, it is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.

Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go and can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years but may progress or get worse over time

Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain and inability to do daily activities. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes.

These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-rays.

Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.