When you have RA, a physical therapist should be part of your treatment team. It’s important to strengthen the muscles around joints so that the joints will work more smoothly.
Unfortunately, many PTs are most interested in sports injuries. They merely tolerate older patients with their age-related needs, and know next to nothing about the various types of arthritis caused by an overly-energetic immune system. Fortunately, the exercises to strengthen any given muscle group are very similar regardless of the need for rehab. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to look around for a PT who either knows about RA, PsA, AS, etc., or who is interested in learning. If you find a PT who is bored stiff and consequently has eyes wandering around the room instead of watching to make sure patients do their exercises properly, run the other direction! You want someone who will ensure that you’re using proper technique.
I was lucky enough to find a physical therapist who had worked near a rheumatology clinic and knew tons of tips to help people with RA. Little things like:
- It matters which way you turn the doorknob. When you open doors, turn the knob toward your thumb, not toward your pinkie (which is backwards from the way I naturally turn doorknobs).
- When shopping, protect your fingers. Always get a cart on wheels. Those small baskets are handy when you’re only buying a few items, but they can accelerate joint damage in fingers.
Most PTs will provide a handout to help you remember your exercises. Save them in a notebook so that you’ll be able to refer back to them in the future.
If you want to try the Dr. Google method (which is rarely a good idea), consider
Schedule time in your busy do to make sure your muscles will do their jobs, to keep you as active as possible while taking a minimum number of pills 🙂