The benefits of weightlifting for arthritis

Let me start by saying I am not a doctor, nor am I medically trained or an arthritis expert. I am just an arthritis suffer sharing my story of leading a relatively pain-free existence.When I was in my mid 20’s I started to notice pain in my left knee, however I ignored it, of course… But as the pain became worse I started to limp, unable to put any weight on my left leg because my knee would simply give way. Eventually my knee swelled up to the size of a soccer ball so I decided it was time and I went to a doctor, who sent me to see a rheumatologist (arthritis specialist). The specialist stuck a big needle into my knee, thinking it was full of fluid, but no. What actually happened was my quadricep muscle was essentially dying from lack of use, so it had started to slump over the knee. I was then diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a particularly nasty form of arthritis that attacks your own body tissue and can lead to joint deformity. I was put on several medications (which I hate), including pain medication and an anti-inflammatory.Unfortunately my condition worsened, with my left elbow beginning to lock up, leaving me unable to touch my fingers to my face. Because it appeared the arthritis was only attacking the left side of my body, it was then thought I had psoriatic arthritis, which also causes pain, swelling and stiffness. It was at this point that the specialist gave me the best advice I have ever had. He said “you need to lift weights and work the joints.” Sounds easy enough, but as anyone who suffers from arthritis will tell you, when you are stiff, swollen and in pain, the last thing you want to do is aggravate the joint by lifting weights. But being in my mid 20’s, I was not about to concede to this condition so easily, so the work began…I think I should mention that up until this point I had not been into a gym or partaken in any physical activity due to pain, so I was also quite overweight. So slowly and painfully I began my journey, working out 3-4 times a week. My workouts were so simple and I pretty much just used bodyweight for months. I would slowly lunge up and down the car park of my apartment building, do partial squats, standing push-ups against the wall and bicep curl with a thin wood plank. I did not complete any cardio as my joints simply couldn’t take it. Now at this stage I am still on medication for the pain and inflammation, I am also icing my joints after a workout because of the swelling. Lets be honest, it wasn’t a great experience, it hurt a lot, but it was necessary. My specialist would tell me “your arthritis is always going to be there, but its up to you how you manage it.”Slowly I progressed to using light weights and was able to broaden my range of exercises that I could complete and starting to see less inflammation of the joints. After about a year I was able to slowly take myself off my medications, which did lead to some short term pain, but was better for my body in the long run. From there it was all systems go! With every passing week my body got stronger and my pain was less and less. After about 2 years I was and still am pain free. I have now been lifting heavy weights for about 5 years, I train 5 days a week and have competed in a bodybuilding competition. I still have the occasional flare-up but it is very manageable with rest and ice.I still have no exact diagnosis on whether I have psoriatic or rheumatoid arthritis but its not important. What is important is that I live medication and pain free. Really I should be thanking my arthritis, because without I may never have started lifting weights, building a healthier lifestyle and living life strong.arthritisTips for arthritis sufferers-Make sure you speak with your doctor before undertaking any exercise or weightlifting program-Using machine weights provides stability to the joints, allowing for a correct movement-Start with bodyweight only exercises, you don’t want to inflame the joints anymore than you need to-ice your joints after a workout to reduce swelling-there will be some pain when lifting but it should not be excessive-sometimes a compression bandage around the joint helped me control the painThere will be setbacks, but its worth it!

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