I have OA of the knees. I understand exercise is recommended for arthritis to actually keep the pain down. The doc says "you know your body and when to stop". But, if you have chronic pain, how do you really know when you've gone to far - when you collapse?
If I had chronic pain, I wouldn't even think of doing exercises, I would be more determined to reduce pain and that would give your body alot less "stress", to deal with. I have found that pain drains the body of energy anyways...
I have osteoarthritus in the feet (big toe joints, both feet). With arthritis, exercising is like a double-edged sword....not too much and not too little. Your body will let you know, just listen. And easy does it as first too!
Just my two cents worth.... Good luck with your knees, too!
ps...I take 2 or 3 fish oil caps per day (omega 3's, salmon oil). 1000 mg per capsule. That helps with pain, acts as a anti-inflammatory.
I have 2 good/reliable health books here at home and both of them say that fish oils are very good for both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.
If you buy the fish oil capsules, look for Omega 3 fish oils, usually from salmon, herring etc. Any health food store will sell them and they are not expensive (which is nice!).
I take 2 or 3 1000mg caps every day and it does help; fish oils are good for a bunch of other things too.
.....BUT DO NOT BUY COD LIVER OIL....that is NOT the same as Omega 3's which I take....
You could also eat salmon, herring, sardines or mackerel for your lunch or supper. That would also give you the Omega 3 oils in these fishes.....(Myself, I hate eating all types of fish, so popping 2 or 3 fish caps a day is great; take them with a meal and you will almost never get any "fishy burps" or repeat taste).
I just read a study on the net describing significant improvements in mobility, strength and sense of positive well being in a group of arthritis sufferers who trained 3x per week for an hour incl cardio (bike) weights and sport skills prac, compared to the group who just had physical therapy for the same period. However as some deterioration was recorded on joints already effected, it was advised to find activities which did not aggravate these joints specifically.
They say "use it or you'll lose it". Sometimes when i'm on Prednisoline i think i am more well than reality and i over do it... so listen carefully to your body. Pilates is a great low impact way to tone and define muscles without stressing them but it has to be in addition to something to keep the heartrate up. I always find my joints hurt until i'm warmed up (esp ankles) then those natural endorphines kick in and it feels great. I understand RA is not the same as OA so you may have different limitations. Take care Jorob!
Since I have arthritic toes on both feet as well I get on the eliptical machines as they don't put any added pressure on the feet and ther is no moving the toes just legs and hips. I have arthritis of the neck fingers and spine as well not to mention osteoporosis and I have no choice but to get some exercise at least every other day. I use to go 6 days a week til up to July and then the arthritis got too progressive after surgery. Try out every way you can, join the gymn try the machines that suit you, do pilates(altho they can be a strain on some ligaments same as yoga, not for everyone)or yoga, be careful I hurt myself in yoga and I was in shape, ended up with surgery. Find what works for you and then do it, even if it is only a few times a week.