Someone send me an Irish Times article recently called “Why exercise is so difficult for people with rheumatoid arthritis” The article was extremely misleading. It was referring to studies carried out on people with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Allegedly the studies found out: “In a groundbreaking new experiment involving older women and exercise, researchers found that even a gentle session of leg lifts set off an exaggerated nervous system reaction in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Light exercise also negatively affected the inner workings of their muscles and blood vessels”
In the text it already alludes to ‘older women’ not all Rheumatoid Arthritis patients, not even all female Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. The unset of negative effects could also have been brought on by other age related conditions.
The study the article referring to is titled: Increased sympathetic and haemodynamic responses to exercise and muscle metaboreflex activation in post-menopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis”
The titled and the clearly refers to post-menopausal women with Rheumatoid Arthritis ,not men, juveniles or even pre-menopausal women.
But the Irish Times article brushes all Rheumatoid Arthritis patients with the same brush.
The article also fails to mention what can be construed as exercise, it really should be called physical activity. It only highlights the negatives where the positives of physical activities outweigh the negatives.
Physical activities can include exercises like swimming, aqua-aerobics, cycling, walking or any light exercise. Not only is good in a physical way, it is also works wonders for the mental health.
Exercise also works as a distraction for the pain caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis. Pre Covid 19 I went to gym at least 3 times a week. I found the pain or soreness caused by the exercises were easier to deal with then the pain caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis. That is how dealt with it, but that doesn’t mean that it works for others. There are different levels of Rheumatoid Arthritis and the treatments vary from patient to patient
Physical activities can also include a bit of gardening, some light housework, dancing even singing. All these things help to ease the pain or to distract from it. Even sex can help with the pain and is also a physical activity.
Stanford University, California USA have developed a program which helps people with Rheumatoid Arthritis and other Chronic conditions to live well. It is called “Living A Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions” The program is rolled out in Ireland by Arthritis Ireland as ‘Living Well with Arthritis’ for people suffering with all variations of Arthritis and related conditions.
The HSE, also provides the program for other Chronic conditions, as well as Arthritis.
The living well program is a very important tool for anyone with Arthritis to cope with the daily life. Not elements of the program will apply to everyone, but some elements will.
I am in the fortunate position to be a course leader, but I also took part as a participant. When I saw the Irish Times article I was very annoyed because it will turn a lot of people of exercising or doing physical activities and that really is the last thing they need. Rheumatoid Arthritis patients need to stay physically active, It doesn’t mean they have to run a marathon every day, but simple activities ,even exercised that can be done sitting on a chair.
Of course you need to consult with your medical team to see what works best for you. Misinterpreted data as in the Irish Time article will do more harm then good and makes it harder for people who are on the frontline helping people with Rheumatoid Arthritis , to convince patients how important physical activity and exercising is.
It is not only important for your physical health but also for your mental health. It is one of the distractions to help you cope with the pain and the fatigue.
I am sure the author of the Irish Times article meant well, but when you omit some vital information, and take it out of context, it completely changes the narrative.