Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune condition that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and swelling. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is often the result of wear and tear on joints, RA is an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, particularly the synovial lining of the joints.
How RA manifest itself:
Inflammation and Pain: RA leads to persistent inflammation in the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.
Psychological Impact: Chronic pain and physical limitations from RA can also have psychological effects. This may include feelings of frustration, depression, or anxiety, which can be important to acknowledge.
Supporting Individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a journey filled with unique challenges as RA affects not only the body but also the spirit. Through this guide, we aim to provide tailored strategies and a foundation of understanding. Our goal is to empower individuals with RA to thrive, armed with knowledge and support towards enhanced well-being and a higher quality of life.
In the following paragraphs, we'll explore how reformer Pilates can be a powerful tool in managing RA.
How can physical therapy help:
Physical therapy though a reformer Pilates practice can be highly beneficial for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Our goal is to design a customized exercise and treatment plan to address their specific needs and improve overall function. Our focus will be on:
It is crucial to make thoughtful exercise modifications that prioritize comfort and safety. Remember to have a measured approach with your exercise selection. Allowing a gradual progression as the client’s strength and confidence flourish, from exercises that are well tolerated to more challenging movements.
With compromised elbow joint we wish to work with the following modalities:
Focus on lower body work
The limitations on the lower body will be minimal but the benefits will remain. So centre the bulk of the workouts on the lower body which is half of the body and provides extra benefits such as improvements in balance, flexibility, core and breath control
Avoid exercises that use the arms to support the body
With the elbows compromised, the elbows will find it hard to support one’s body weight, exercises such as the following should be removed or modified:
Straight arm planks, Superman, Push-ups
instead use variations just as elbow planks
Prefer kneeling and supine arm work with loops
We still wish to strengthen the muscles around the elbows and will thus need to work our upper bodies. Using the loops for resistance means using a much more manageable workload that can be adjusted to the strength of the client.
Exercises such as:
Kneeling arms series, supine arms series, kneeling torso twists
Adjust the springs to make the exercises more accessible
Get some stretches in
The final piece of the puzzle is to work on increasing the range of motion of the joints. This will naturally occur during some of the exercises mentioned above. We can then specifically focus on this goal by using gentle stretches such as:
This concludes the guide. This is meant to be a short but informative introduction to the management of Rheumatoid Arthritis within the confines of a Reformer Pilates class. We all can play a role in our clients recovery by always learning and personalizing our programs to suit each clients individual needs