View Full Version : Aikido and arthritis

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11-01-2007, 07:54 AM
Turns out I've got rheumatoid arthritis, lucky me. I'm still in the stages of learning to manage this, and utterly determined (with my doctor's strong support) to remain as active as ever. Of course, this is easier said than done -- I've got a flare-up going on right now that's affecting both hands. Not good for typing, not good for aikido either -- although, paradoxically, training seems to help somehow. Are there any other folks out there who are managing RA? Anything special you do that allows you to continue to train?

11-01-2007, 10:36 AM
I was diagnosed with RA about 8 years ago, at the time it was so bad I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs. When I was diagnosed a lot of people said that was it I had to quit aikido. But people like my Doctor thought anything that kept me active and moving was a good thing.

Just take it easy when you have a flare up. Let your training partners know that you need to go slow. For me when I have a flare up I am unable to roll or do any suri-waza. So I try and focus on feeling my partner's center instead of powering through like I have a bad habit of doing.

Oh and be patient with yourself. I know for me I had a real hard time when I was diagnosed because it took awhile before we found meds that got the RA under control for me.

Janet Rosen
11-01-2007, 10:51 AM
Always be patient w/ yourself and focus on what you CAN do.

11-01-2007, 11:14 AM
Hi Mary,

Sorry to hear about your arthritis. I have psoriatic arthritis which is very similar to RA, as it is an autoamune disease that inflames the joints... the difference in mine is it attacks the skin as well, hence the psoriatic part.

I first began having severe symptoms early in my karate career, and long before I began Aikido. I have been dealing with the disease since 1994, and it has ranged everywhere from being in a wheelchair, to being able to compete in basketball and hockey. I have had some joint deformation in my toes and smaller joints, but it has not prevented me from training.

Like you, I seem to have done better when I'm exercising and training, rather than being sedentarty. I have also noticed that diet, sleep, and stress play a big role in flare-ups for me.

I have taked many different medications over the years including methotrexate, prednisone, humira, and of course many NSAIDS. With limited success.

My rheamatologist finally put me on Remicade, and after my 1st treatement, my symptoms were all but gone. I have only been on the drug for about 2 months now, and so far so good. Maybe you can ask your Rheumatologist about it.

Of course what has worked for me may not work for someone else, but there do seem to be many trends among arthritis sufferers.

Good luck to you, and keep training. I believe aikido training can be very beneficial to you. It has been for me.

11-01-2007, 12:32 PM
Welcome to the club Mary.:straightf
In addition to the great advice already given I suggest "wrapping" up affected joints. This helps to prevent too much pain while taking ukemi. Kote gaeshi on an arthritic wrist can really HURT! Immobilizing the joint a bit by wrapping helps me to train through it. Especially important at seminars.:D

11-01-2007, 04:04 PM
well one of the senior lady instructors in my dojo has arthritis and she is there in the dojo every day so she seems to deal with it just fine I think wearing arhtritis knee braces helped her a lot thats what she told me while transporting me to the hospital on Tuesday after my knee dislocation how ironic is that :eek:

anyway I will ask her for more details when I get to walk again and go to the dojo.

11-01-2007, 04:07 PM
Are there any other folks out there who are managing RA? Anything special you do that allows you to continue to train?
Yep, got RA and AARP.
Warm up, don't over do it, and keep the Tiger Balm handy.

11-03-2007, 06:31 AM
I have arthritis in my left foot since i was 15 (consequence of several accidents always on this foot when I was a kid), and found that exercising (I started aikido !) and taking glucosamine/chondritine pills also helped -

If the pain comes back ( weather change and stress are good triggers), I take glucosamine for 3-4 weeks ( I see results in days) -
There are many different brands - some putting very little in their pills ( or glucosamine/chondritine that cannot be absorbed easily by the body ), and some good & expensive ones.

I read on the net that they can help rebuild or decrease the rate of deterioration of the cartilage/joint.
I hope this can help you. It certainly helped me -
Massage / kiatsu also helped -
I hope to improve my kiatsu to help myself more as I get older.

11-12-2007, 08:22 PM
Belated thanks to all for your responses. I have my good days and my bad days -- on the bad days, the fear is worse than the pain: fear that I'm going to lose everything that I love to do. I wanted to hear that it's not inevitable and that other people are managing to go on with their lives. It makes me appreciate the good days more, and get more out of them -- on low-pain or no-pain days, I feel like there's nothing I can't do. I'm on the mat with a bunch of other imperfect bodies: on any given day, someone's got some red tape showing somewhere. We all just do our best, and everyone understands.

Thanks again,

John Bernhard
11-13-2007, 01:02 AM
Hey Mary, as a Nurse I would tell you to keep up with it as keeping those joints moving is so important and where else does one do lots of joint movement but in Aikido. The other thing you may want to look at is how much stress is in your life? Work, home, school if theres any, kids, husband, etc. They are connecting autoimmune disorders with stress more and more each day. I have a sensei, Dennis Hooker, to be exact who is afflicted by an autoimmune disorder. As I understand it he is able to control this by daily meditations and does so religiously. Maybe that is something to consider then you could not only meditate and become more centered but then you could still do Aikido and the meditation i'm sure would only help strengthen your understanding of principles, etc. Maybe??? Hope that helps.


Joseph Madden
11-23-2007, 07:26 PM
As someone who has suffered from arthritis of the hip since I was 18,
I can happily say that since training in aikido I have been able to skip the anti-inflammatory medications completely. I was told by a physician 10 years ago to lay off the medications and start an exercise regimen that would free me from drugs. Thankfully I followed her advice eventually. Thankfully I started aikido.

12-03-2007, 06:03 PM
Just checking in again -- things have been going very well. Aikido really does seem to help, not just in working the range of motion of the joints, but it does seem to help release...something. Don't want to get too ethereal about that, but I feel that it's there. I've also switched over to circumin (turmeric extract) and ginger, which were recommended by a friend who practices traditional Chinese medicine -- his hope was that I could reduce the NSAIDs, and in fact I've been able to do without them altogether.

I know that it won't always be smooth sailing, but this is a huge change -- not just in the daily pain, but in what I can see in the future. There's a statistic out there that 60% of people with rheumatoid arthritis are disabled to the point where they can't work any more by ten years after diagnosis. that's a scary number, but -- and maybe I'm tempting fate -- I'm now confident that I will not be in that 60%. The pharmaceutical industry is looking to make a buck out of RA, like many other diseases, and that's scary too -- the side effects of the drugs, their cost, and the way that this has become the predominant solution to everything under the sun. I feel very lucky to have alternatives. And I feel especially lucky to have my dojo, where I'm welcome on the mat however gimpy I am -- and, largely because I am welcome on the mat, I'm a lot less gimpy than I used to be.

Thanks so much to everyone here for your encouragement!

12-04-2007, 06:46 AM
Always glad to hear of progress.
Its always nice to feel welcomed.

Josh Reyer
12-04-2007, 09:49 AM
Just checking in again -- things have been going very well. Aikido really does seem to help, not just in working the range of motion of the joints, but it does seem to help release...something.

Endorphins. :D

Ron Tisdale
12-04-2007, 10:05 AM
Best wishes to you Mary, and stick with it!