Monday, September 21, 2015

How exercise helped me overcome my crippling rheumatoid arthritis.

The first time I met my physiotherapist, it was the seventh day of my hospital stay for rheumatoid arthritis.

I was to have my first session at 5 in the late afternoon. It was nearly 6, and no one had come. She was either late or had forgotten about me. I was feeling very despondent and let down. My legs and left hand which were in excruciating pain just the day before were now bearably achy but useless. I needed help to revive them!

6.45p.m.! In walks my cheery physiotherapist. She manipulates my limbs and gets me to try standing up. I needed help even standing. I could not stand on my own. She walks me a couple of steps, but it was too painful and my legs were too weak and wouldn't respond satisfactorily. She gives me instruction on a couple of exercises to work my legs while in bed. Then she left me, with a promise to come again the next day about the same time. I was thinking, "That was it?".

I refused to take this lying down! I was determined to get back on my feet as soon as possible.
That night and the rest of the next day, every hour on the hour, I would get up to do some form of exercise. Each time I was determined to do a little more. By 5.30p.m. the next day when my physiotherapist came, she was surprised to find me walking, albeit with my cane, not just around the bed, but to the nurse's station and back. I continued my exercises religiously everyday after my discharge from the hospital.

My left hand was very badly crippled badly by the arthritic attack. I couldn't extend the fingers and couldn't grip anything. I was afraid I would be able to play the piano again. So, I started sitting at the piano. At first, it was tough. All I could do was jab at the keys, one at a time. Anyway, it took several weeks to get my fingers to play five notes on the scale. It took another several months before I could play the piano properly again.

This was my routine for the next couple of years. I added more physical challenges as I improved. I eventually managed to swim a hundred laps, relearned to play Chopin's Revolutionary Etude, and walked without the aid of a walking stick.

I'm not saying exercising is for everyone. But, if it worked for me, maybe it would encourage someone else to try it out. Who knows? It might work for them.

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