At what point do you stop exercising due to pain? Unfortunately I’ve had to deal with this question pretty often lately. I’m used to working out with weights or cardio equipment every other day, usually 3,4 or 5 times a week, splitting cardiovascular and strength training, upper and lower body parts on opposite days to allow the most muscle recovery. However, pain sometimes gets in the way. I live for muscle soreness. It means I’m actually accomplishing something and I know that I’ve worked my muscles enough that they need to rebuild bigger and stronger. Throw an autoimmune disorder into that mix and you’ve got a serious dilemma. On the days I have occasional flare-ups, the question always comes up, “Should I go work out tonight?” Afterall, doctors, books and websites all tell you that exercise is good for arthritis and actually helps diminish it’s effects. I believe that is true, but there is a point when you have to say no. It might take 1 day or 3 for an inflammation flare-up to recede, but your body will thank you for the rest later when the inflammation has gone down and your joints can move more freely.
What really helps me is having a spontaneous workout routine. For example, I recently have been going to the gym Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I’ll start off with some treadmill walking or 10-15 minutes on the stationary bike to warm up. After that I’ll move over to the weights area and do a few range of motion stretches and then some mild strength training exercises and then another 10-15 minutes of stretching. Some days my shoulder might be in so much pain that I’ll have to skip a set of exercises that use that muscle group, but continue to exercise other muscles as long as they don’t use that shoulder. That would be a good day for some mild decline presses using more triceps and pectorals than deltoids and then moving on to do triceps, biceps and forearms using exercises that control and isolate only those specific muscles in the arms. The key here is not to give up and avoid working out. And when I do workout with weights while dealing with pain, the weights are very mild. It can be humbling to do shoulder shrugs with only 5lb dumbells after years of using 90lbs but it’s always best to start small and work up. Other days my knees might not be able to struggle through a weightlifting routine so it helps just to get on an elliptical or stationary bike and do some cardio for 30 minutes. Every little bit counts. Even going to the gym or setting aside 30 minutes at home just to do stretches can relieve quite a lot of stress. And believe me.. suffering from an autoimmune disorder is a lot of stress!