Dance it out!
“But I feel better when I’m dancin’… oooh, yeah…
better when I’m dancin’… ohhh-ohhh….”
<insert singing voice>
It seems counter-intuitive, but the stiffness and aches of rheumatoid and other auto-immune illnesses are better if we keep moving! Sitting still, standing still, lying in bed for a good night’s sleep make for one achy body, I’m tellin’ ya. When we hurt, we just want to curl up and not move an inch. But for the AI (auto-immune) person, moving is incredibly important to help minimize and prevent pain.
Who’s with me out there - "Amen!" - ???
Last year, and then again a few months ago, I got certified in group fitness. My physical therapist had said that I have to keep moving, keep exercising, fight for the range of motion and flexibility of my limbs and core. He was right, and my doctors agreed. Knowing that I tend to join these kinds of classes and not show up, I decided to be the teacher, then I’m sort of obligated to show up. It keeps me accountable. Dedicated. Responsible. Most of all – it keeps me moving and out of so.much.pain. Oh, my word. The pain that sitting, standing or lying too long causes is almost just unbearable sometimes.
Along this fitness journey, I’ve learned in my studies and from well-qualified personal trainers that the goal of fitness is not always losing weight. Or running a marathon. Or climbing a 10,000-ft high mountain. Sometimes the goal is just to move. Without so much pain. Or be able to grip your toothbrush. Or comb your hair. It’s different for everyone, and those of us with chronic pain have very different goals and objectives than the healthy person who wants to lose weight, bulk up, or start power lifting competitions.
With that in mind, I learned to dance my pain away. There's always some baseline level of pain and every day I don't dance two miles and totally eliminate the ouchies. In fact, very few, if any, days have no pain. But moving and dancing at least makes it a little better, it's fun, and it lifts my mood. I cook meals and dance with the spatula. I fold towels to the "laundry lunge" and the right leg is always a lateral step in rhythm with the first and third folds on said towel. Rather than just standing up and walking, half the time, I dance as I get up. Heck, I get out of bed by dancing. I call it "the a.m. shuffle." (okay.... sometimes it's not very Dancing with the Stars-ish looking....) It sounds crazy, but it works. Mainly, it helps me get out of bed and start my day on a positive note.
It works for me in two main ways:
It just works out the ouchies. I feel better when I’m dancin’. When I’m moving. Staying still too long hurts. Moving keeps my muscles limber. Even simply getting in the floor and stretching while I'm watching TV or listening to a podcast keeps the pain at bay. If your answer to the aches and pains of rheumatoid, Sjogrens and other AI’s is to sit and just don’t move because it hurts, you have it all backwards and inverted and upside down. Trust me on this one. While there may be specific reasons your doctor or therapist might say, “No movement for you, ever,” this is unlikely and almost never the case. Conversely, they will push us to step over the comfort zone line and into new territories with moving our bodies. Always check with your doctor or PT, but I can promise you – the chances of them telling you to move versus not is about 9.999999999 out of 10.
One has to look to just a few (reliable!) pages of internet research to know that chronic disease patients (CDPs) are almost always at a higher risk of sadness, depression, and sometimes even suicidal thoughts that those without chronic pain and disease. Less pain is key to winning these battles, and overcoming the challenge of moving our bodies even when they hurt helps bolster our confidence and lifts our mood. When my body betrays me, when it rebels and yet I overcome and move anyway, there’s just something inside that is encouraging, confidence-building, and sadness-busting from an emotional/psychological standpoint.
Exercise is known to lift our mood and get those endorphins coming out. It really works. I love moving because dancing away the sadness and the emotional uglies is rewarding. And you hurt less, too, so that's a huge win-win.
Here’s a great article from RheumatoidArthritis.net about dancing out our pain. It’s a great read with some helpful information. It specifically addresses dance as a way to combat the morning stiffness that accompanies Rheumatoid pain.
And if you’re ever in my area, come and dance with me in a class! We’ll have a great time and you’ll feel so much better, I promise. I hope you're encouraged to dance away those ouchies!
#danceitout #danceitout #moveit #moveit